Hook and Bullet Club by Nick Wognum

Father Brandon Moravitz gives a blessing to Ida Rukavina, daughter of the late Tom Rukavina during funeral services Saturday morning at Holy Spirit Church in Virginia. Former State Representative Tom Rukavina passed away Jan. 7. Photo by Mark Sauer, Mesabi Daily News.

Fittingly, the priest running the show for Tommy Rukavina’s funeral in Virginia was Father Brandon Moravitz of Ely.
This was a tall task with an estimated 800 people attending the visitation and service at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Virginia. There were senators, governors and local elected officials along with family and friends.
But just when it was time for Father Moravitz to speak about Tommy’s life, a funny thing happened.
“Saturday morning I typed up a three page outline of what I wanted to say and I put it under the pulpit. After the scripture readings I walked to the pulpit and my notes weren’t there,” said Moravitz.
Did Tommy arrange for a trick on an Ely boy to see if he could speak from the heart as well?
“Maybe he stole my notes,” said Moravitz with a laugh.
Facing hundreds of people and realizing his notes weren’t there, Moravitiz said he was doing his best to hold it all together.
“I was going to recognize names of dignitaries and I had quotes from a few different political and religious figures,” said Moravitz.
Instead, he had to wing it. Something that Rukavina did countless times, whether on the floor of the House of Representatives in St. Paul or at a pro-mining rally on the Range.
“I remembered the gist of what I wanted to say but I was thinking of Tommy and his good sense of humor, maybe the joke was on him. He gave me a chance to talk to politicians without notes,” said Moravitz.
By all accounts, Moravitz took the situation in stride and handled it without fail. Even with a packed house.
“I’m walking around before the funeral with two governors and Amy Klobuchar and I’m thinking how did I get myself into this? Then I lost my notes. Wowsers!
“It definitely was an honor and in the top three largest funerals I’ve done. Never had one with so many dignitaries and you know I’m more comfortable in a deer shack or a dugout,” said Moravitz.
There’s no doubt Tommy would’ve been proud of Moravitz who is now in his fifth year of the priesthood.
“I’m an Iron Range kid with Slovenian roots, just like Tommy. I have a lot of emotion and passion in the way I speak. For Tommy he spoke in the political world and me I’m in the religious world,” said Moravitz.
He would share the story of losing his notes with his congregation on Sunday. Reflecting on the whole situation this past week, Moravitz said it was providence.
“To this day I never found them and I’m not sure if it was my guardian angel or the devil that stole my notes.”