Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, Paul Wood chats with criminal defense attorney Bruce Ratcliffe. He has lived in Champaign or Urbana, mostly Champaign, since 1972 (except for 1980-82 — law school in Chicago).
So ... what's new with you?
My work life is always exciting, but I can't say much about it because of confidentiality rules. I do spend most of my days with thieves, drug dealers, gun toters and killers.
My home life is seldom exciting because my wife and I are pretty low key. My social life is almost always exciting. I am a Hall of Fame member of the World Famous Lawn Rangers, and we marched for the first time in the Champaign Parade of Lights. It was a great time, and we'll do it again. Also, I just got elected as Master at Arms in the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias. I think I'm the only active member to have been elected to every office.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
I get up between 6:30 and 7, have some coffee or tea and read the news, especially The News-Gazette online.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?
Marrying my wife of 33 years, Susan. She put me through law school, then I put her though the University of Illinois; she has a Ph.D. in entomology. Tied would be raising three great children.
What do you regard as your most treasured possession?
The wedding ring I wear.
Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?
Not really, I take my pleasures in regular ways, a golf trip with college buddies, a nice meal, that sort of thing.
What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?
I like the old mysteries and adventure books. Right now I'm reading "Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allen Poe, "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas and the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My favorite book of all time is "Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter.
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
Ireland and Scotland because of my wife's and my roots.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
Puck, a big black long-haired Newfoundland we had about 10 years ago.
What's your favorite sports team?
Da Bears. An older brother's best friend was on the Bears. He got married, and I went to the wedding. I met Gale Sayers and that whole crew.
What would you order for your last meal?
Barbecue pork ribs, mac and cheese, greens and apple pie.
If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?
Who are your favorite musicians and why?
Mainly blues musicians, Delta blues or Chicago blues because they sing and play with such feeling.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
There are several, the standard marriage, birth of children, getting a hole-in-one, that sort of thing.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Pope Francis and my son Robert. I would serve ribs, mac and cheese, greens and apple pie. And a nice wine.
Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?
Charlemagne. He unified Europe, drove out invaders; he was very educated for his time and he fostered education for his people. Plus, he was a major tough guy.
What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?
Hate is too strong. I don't like people who lie to your face for their own convenience. I also dislike intolerant people, especially know-it-alls. The personality trait I like least in myself is impatience.
What's your best piece of advice?
The best advice I ever got was from my mother: "Be circumspect." The best piece of advice I've ever given was "take the deal." It's also the worst advice I've given. It just depends.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
Newspaper delivery in my hometown, Evanston. I was assigned a horrible route, and the bag on my handlebars messed up my bicycle. I quit the first day, so I didn't make anything.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
Going to law school. My girlfriend wouldn't marry me as a laborer, but once I got accepted to law school, she did.
Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?
Many, many regrets, but if you realize that one different turn, one different choice to do this or that and maybe your kids wouldn't be here, then no, no regrets.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
My job is very stressful. I've always tried to never bring it home — and to keep things in perspective. My stress is nothing compared to the stress of way too many other people.