A place of peace

R. Vicente Rubio has lived in Creswell since 2017; his mission is to serve through teaching and mentoring of youths, adults and seniors, regardless of background. Aliya Hall/The Chronicle

CRESWELL – The dream of helping others was instilled in R. Vicente Rubio from a young age. Although he had a traumatic childhood that resulted in a brain injury and post-traumatic stress, it was this experience, he said, that let him see and feel compassion for those that he felt were like him.
Rubio has spent almost 38 years of his life teaching and mentoring people of all ages and backgrounds. Now, after almost three years in Creswell, he is retiring in order to offer martial arts and meditation classes to the community free with a donation.
”I will retire and offer to the community that I live in everything that I am,” he said. ”Everything that I am.”
Serving is the key to understanding Rubio. In 2010, he took his grandfather’s name, Vicente, and changed his name from Ronald to Ronaldo Vicente, although he goes by Vicente. His grandfather was one of the first Filipino officers in the Navy and fought in both world wars, survived being a prisoner of war and finished at the rank of chief despite the rampant racism in the military. Rubio said his grandfather had earned the respect of others through his acts of service.
As someone on the autism spectrum, Rubio said it wasn’t until he took a ballet class in 1976 at Lane Community College that he woke to his body. He said that being in tune with one’s body is something that many people with autism struggle with, but dancing helped him to gain that. He went on to dance in New York City until he was injured in 1983.
It was this injury, however, that helped him develop the mind-body technique known as BodyKi.
”Dance teaches you about the body, martial arts teaches you how to use your body with a clear and focused mind,” he explained.
Originally, Rubio worked with ”fringe kids” in the community. He said he was always given what others would call the ”worst of the worst,” but to him, they were just kids who were like him growing up. From there, his mentoring and classes brought him clients ages 9 to 90, of all backgrounds.
”I would be the one that shook the beehive for others, that would stand up for others,” he said. ”Because that’s what my grandfather taught me. I always put myself on the line for my students.”
In 2010, Rubio’s life hit a low point. His third wife, of 20 years, died of cancer. Due to the cost of her care, he lost their house and belongings and was forced into homelessness. Beyond the material items, the loss of his wife was debilitating.
”I couldn’t work for the first two years,” he explained. ”I was disabled. I couldn’t function.”
In 2013, Rubio’s life got back on track. He published two books and moved to Maui where he helped restore a traditional fish pond and was adopted into Hawaiian culture.
”It was beautiful to be around black-haired, brown-skinned people and be validated for my work,” he said.
When his partner had a major ankle injury, the two moved back to Oregon because it would be the best place to care for it and Rubio had family in the area. He moved to Creswell in 2017 where he started working with City Manager Michelle Amberg about starting classes in the Cobalt Activity Center.
Along with offering classes to the community, it has been important to Rubio to help the disenfranchised in Creswell. Along with offering classes geared toward them, he also brought an idea to City Hall about a House on Wheels project. Although he said some were appreciative, one councilwoman asked him why he was there talking about this.
”I realized that being one of the few people of color in this town, that I stick out advocating for those who are disenfranchised, which I thought was very funny being in a highly religious area,” he said. ”The flak I was getting from people who I thought would understand this concept of ‘forgive’ and to always offer to those who do not have.”
One of Rubio’s students, Colleen Biggs, said that ”Ohana,” which means family in Hawaiian, is what he’s all about.
”That needs to be recognized in our community because you don’t find people like this everywhere,” she said. ”He makes you think about things in a new light.”
Biggs took his BodyKi and meditation class for a year after she had ankle surgery and said that he helped her through the recovery process. One of the things that hit home with her was his advice to ”clear the clutter.”
”I thought, ‘Wow. That’s speaking to me so much,’” she said. ”You’re so involved in the clutter you can’t take care of yourself.”
For Rubio, the most rewarding aspect is seeing a student be empowered with themselves and acknowledging who they are and feeling validated and seen.
Rubio’s classes are on Wednesdays and Fridays at no charge – contributions accepted only. There is senior BodyKi at 9:20 a.m., meditation at 11 a.m., Capoeira at 4:30 p.m. and Aikido at 5:30. All classes are at the Cobalt Activity Center, except for meditation, which is downtown at Creswell Community Center.



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