Umpire loved family, baseball and Elvis

Kenny Scruggs is remembered for his enthusiasm, humor
and dancing.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

The Scruggs family was together for the holidays and, as always, Kenny played Santa. Like the good umpire he was, he made sure there were no phone calls or other interruptions while presents were being opened. Brenda Berstler said her brother had everyone talk about the gifts they gave and received, and it took four hours to open presents.

The day after Christmas, Kenny Scruggs, 49, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while working at For Your Entertainment, a music store at Columbia Mall. He died on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2003, at University Hospital.

Walking down the streets of Columbia with Kenny Scruggs was always an event, Berstler said, because her brother, who lived in Columbia all his adult life, knew just about everybody in town.

“He made people feel genuinely special,” Berstler said. “He wanted to know how they were.”

Mr. Scruggs umpired baseball and softball for Columbia high schools, colleges and the city of Columbia for 30 years. He was a graduate of the Joe Brinkman Umpire School and a member of the Missouri State High School Activities Association Officials and the American Softball Association. He umpired about 275 baseball and softball games each year.

“He loved being an umpire,” Berstler said. “That way he was always right.”

Close friend Greg Wren remembers Mr. Scruggs as a man who never met a stranger.

“It will be hard next summer when softball starts because he won’t be there,” Wren said.

Mr. Scruggs also scheduled and trained umpires at the Rainbow Softball Complex at Cosmopolitan Park. He was known locally as “Cousin Ken” when he worked as a disc jockey and program director in the late 1970s for KTGR radio, which was a country station at the time.

On the side, Mr. Scruggs was a mobile disc jockey for weddings, anniversaries, parties and events. He was a huge fan of music, particularly Elvis Presley.

Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm remembers Scruggs from his work as a 911 dispatcher and from the Columbia Police Department’s annual Christmas parties where Scruggs often served as a DJ.

“It wasn’t unusual for him to start up a CD and then go out on the floor and dance with someone,” Boehm said. “A lot of people at the department knew him. He is someone we’ll miss.”

Ric Wilborn said Mr. Scruggs had two things he always brought with him to events: a 2-foot James Brown doll that danced and sang “I Feel Good” and a sign that read “No parking, Elvis only.”

“He was funny. ... We found humor in almost everything,” Wilborn said.

Wilborn said there were three things in life that Mr. Scruggs cared most about: his family, his dog and baseball — especially his beloved Yankees.

Mr. Scruggs was a member of the Tiger Quarterback Club and a devotee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, where Berstler lives.

A master of baseball trivia, he once repeated so many facts at a visit to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City that the museum offered him a job. He was a top nationwide scorer in the Buzz Time Trivia contest, which he often played with his friends at one of his favorite hangouts — Old Chicago.

Berstler said his goals reflected his passions.

“He wasn’t involved in anything for personal gain, just for the love of the pursuit,” she said. “He was one of the purest souls I know as far as goals went.”

Most of all, he was a loving son and brother.

“We’re going to look back on so many wonderful times,” said his mother, Marcella Steinman, of Columbia. “Those will never go away. You don’t meet too many people like Ken. I was privileged to be his mother.”

Berstler said it was meant to be that Mr. Scruggs’ services will take place on New Year’s Eve, adding that there will probably be Elvis music. She said it will be “Kenny’s party,” adding that “there’ll be more laughter than tears.”

Mr. Scruggs loved a good party. He had been celebrating a “perpetual” 40th birthday party for many years at Cosmopolitan Park. His mother would make her famous chocolate cake, and Ken and his sister would dance.

“He was the best brother that anyone could have,” said older brother Randy Scruggs of Waynesville, “and he was one heck of a dancer.”

Mr. Scruggs was born Aug. 19, 1954, in Kansas City to William Lewis and Marcella L. Stoops Scruggs. He graduated with honors from Hickman High School in 1972 and attended MU.

He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Marcella and Robert Steinman of Columbia; a brother, Randy Scruggs of Waynesville; a sister, Brenda Berstler of Cooperstown, N.Y.; a niece, Elizabeth Berstler; and a nephew, Matthew Scruggs.

His father, William L. Scruggs died earlier.

Visitation will be from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Services will follow visitation at the funeral home, with the Rev. Michael Keith officiating.

Mr. Scruggs donated all his viable organs for medical use. Memorials may be sent to the Cosmopolitan International Diabetes Center, One Hospital Drive, Columbia, Mo., 65203, or the Central Missouri Humane Society, 616 Big Bear Blvd., Columbia, Mo., 65205.

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