By Allyson Dix
A Jobe Publishing, Inc. Exclusive
The whereabouts of an Eastern Kentucky coal miner have remained unknown for over three decades until his skeletal remains were found submerged in Dewey Lake earlier this year.
That coal miner was Ruvil Hale, the father of former Glasgow Superintendent Keith Hale.
Ruvil lived a turbulent life, and although no one will ever know what went through his mind 32 years ago on July 3, 1990, what is known is that at the same time of his disappearance, a 1988 Ford Tempo was stolen nearby, which Keith said was the same vehicle found with a partial license plate match.
Floyd County Deputy Coroner Chuck Hall confirmed with the Barren County Progress (BCP) the remains found in March had a DNA match confirming it was Ruvil. However, his remains have not been released from the state medical’s office due to an ongoing investigation.
Greg Clark, Floyd County Deputy Sheriff, told the BCP that Ruvil was inadvertently found with a depth radar while a Kentucky State Trooper was leisurely fishing.
Police and search crews spent days looking for the 43-year-old man with extensive medical problems who most likely escaped with only $2 in his pocket. Although Ruvil was declared legally dead in 1996, he was never found until March of 2022.
Based on Ruvil’s history and Keith’s statements, it is plausible to believe he would have went searching for his family the day he left the medical nursing facility in Paintsville, Ky., but perhaps not for the reasons one might think.
Ruvil is described as being fiery – a short tempered and hot headed man before he began having multiple medical problems. After a brain surgery with a 5% survival rate for an aneurysm, he eventually declined to the point he was admitted into a nursing facility to provide around the clock care treatment for the extensive problems he had.
Keith told the BCP that Ruvil’s disabilities would have made it difficult for him to drive very far that day.
“He hadn’t driven for years, and he drove with his head tilted,” Keith said. “His vision was blurred, and he had double vision.”
The eastern part of the state is known for its extremely curvy roads, and it is estimated that Ruvil drove for around fifteen minutes before leaving the roadway in Floyd County, Ky.
But where exactly Ruvil was planning to go will forever remain a mystery.
Keith said he wonders if his father escaped in an attempt to find his family since the direction he traveled was towards their family home in Inez, Ky.
If so, he could have possibly been almost halfway there when he departed the road and crashed into Dewey Lake. Another 20 minutes or so, Ruvil may have appeared at the front door of his old home.
“My first memory of my dad when he first got sick was when I was about eight-years-old,” Keith recalled. “We were getting ready to go on a fishing trip when dad grabbed the trailer to put on the hitch.”
But Ruvil dropped the trailer because his head was hurting.
Later that night, Keith crept out of bed to investigate noises from the kitchen and found his father holding his head down.
“It was just something I had never seen,” Keith said.
His mother sent him back to bed, but little did he know at that moment how many times in his youth he would either dash out or be pulled out of bed by his hair in the night due to his father’s abusive aggression that would play out throughout his childhood.
Keith said his father often made the brothers endure hard physical labor made for grown men. He recalled spending days hammering nails into walls for a building, and his father would stand so close his head was inches away from Keith’s shoulder waiting for him to drive a nail in imperfectly. And when he did, Ruvil would be sure to let him know and sometimes whipped him over it.
Keith said of all the years he was physically abused, he never once hit his father at his mother’s request.
“I can still see my mom standing at the fridge. I was leaning against the sink,” Keith said. “He came in with a pistol in his hand and tried to fight me.”
No one dared to challenge Ruvil that night, and it was the turning point for Keith’s mother.
“Mom said, ‘Grab what you can. We’ll leave,’” Keith said.
This particular evening followed a series of events that started in the car as the family drove home from Keith’s basketball game. It was the check engine light that flashed on, driving Ruvil to anger where he subsequently punched his wife in the face before leaving her and the two children walking in the dark on the side of U.S. Route 23.
“We never really knew what was going to happen, but we always knew when it wasn’t over,” he said.
But this time, perhaps, it was the beginning of the end to closing this chapter of their lives, or so they had hoped.
The family fled to live with Keith’s maternal grandparents and sometime after, Ruvil’s parents obtained guardianship of their son.
The family had lost everything – their belongings, their home, the only father they knew. But what they never lost was each other.
At 19, Keith obtained conservatorship of his father with the help of an attorney familiar with the family’s history, which gave him the legal rights to deal with all things related to the family’s estate and property. It took two years, but he was able to put his mother, brother, and himself back into their home afterwards, albeit empty, as well as handle his father’s financial matters, and his parents finally divorced.
It would appear the family could start anew without the shadow of Ruvil hovering over their day to day moments. However, once Ruvil learned of his family’s return, he made his way back into their lives uninvited.
“We owned some property across the road from our house, and my dad would park his vehicle there watching us from daylight to dark,” Keith said. “And everybody he’d talk to, he’d tell them, ‘They need to die.’”
“He was going to kill us,” Keith said.
Despite requests for protection from the local police at that time, the family was informed it was Ruvil’s property, too, and nothing could prevent him from sitting there.
Every single day for two years, Keith said, Ruvil would sit across from their home, watching and possibly waiting to act on what he’d already told people he planned to do.
“He must have got pretty bad at his mom’s. They ended up putting him in a homecare facility,” Keith said. “He had tried to escape a couple of times from other facilities, too.”
“I’d try to visit him every once in a while,” he added. “I had a good mom. She was always good about encouraging me to see him because one day I wouldn’t be able to.”
Keith landed a basketball scholarship at Pikeville College after high school and had just finished his first year in 1990 when Ruvil disappeared.
“I didn’t go back after summer break,” Keith said. “His goal was to kill us, and I dropped out.”
Keith relinquished his basketball scholarship – a sport he excelled at and enjoyed – to once again protect his family.
Over time, Keith and his mother built their lives away from Martin County, while his younger brother stayed and started his own family – all three finding very successful paths.
“I felt good about being able to get conservatorship and take care of my mom so she could take care of herself,” Keith said.
However, he said none of the family members would be where they are today if it weren’t for some of the people who never gave up on encouraging him to keep moving forward.
IMPACT OF EDUCATORS
Keith credits a handful of people including his mother and maternal grandparents, but there are two educators that he said changed the direction of his life leading him to where he is today: Roger Harless and Bobby McCool.
“Roger really made sure I always had what I needed,” Keith said about his former high school teacher and assistant basketball coach. “He made sure I had shoes, attended camps, and made it to practice.”
State Representative Bobby McCool told the BCP that Keith was certainly equipped with many skills that would ultimately guide him in the right direction so long as Keith stayed on the right path.
Bobby and Keith would cross paths after Keith decided to pursue a certification in welding, accepting he would stay around his hometown to keep watch on his family since no one knew where Ruvil had disappeared to, and he could unexpectedly show up at any moment.
“I would encourage him often because I thought he was equipped with all the tools – intelligent, passionate, shows compassion towards others, a lot of patience,” Bobby, former welding teacher at Mayo Vocational School, said. “He wanted to do the right things, be productive and successful.”
Despite having some rough waters to trek through, Bobby said, he could see the gifts Keith possessed and how they would fit him as an educator, too. He also feels like Keith is his own son and the two have kept in touch through the years.
And that’s exactly the path Keith took. He graduated from Morehead State University, and this past summer he retired as Superintendent of Glasgow Independent Schools after dedicating years as an educator, principal, and mentor in both Barren County and Glasgow School systems.
Bobby sometimes worked behind the scenes, ensuring certain technicalities and paperwork was in order for Keith to start at Morehead launching him towards the education field. But it was Keith who did the bulk of the work to be where he is today, Bobby explained.
As a child in middle school, Keith said, “I remember being in my bunk bed at night and telling myself life would be different some day. My kids won’t have to go through stuff like this.”
Keith not only beat the statistical odds of having a lifelong road of severe difficulties that most adults experience following childhood abuse and trauma, but he has also accomplished, alongside his wife, in raising two successful daughters. Keith says he hopes he is remembered for two things in life: being a hard worker and a good daddy.
The profound altruism that many educators can provide students goes beyond the classroom and can change the path for not only one student, but can carry down from generation to generation.
“When you see students, and certainly Keith is one of the greatest examples,” Bobby explained. “When you see them become successful in life and impacting others, you can’t put dollar signs on that. That’s why we teach.”
PATHS AREN’T PERFECT
“Paths aren’t made perfect. Sometimes we have to go through stuff,” Keith humbly admits.
He said his childhood has effected him in several ways as an adult but, over time, some of those things improve.
“There’s always a feeling of not doing good enough. Could I have done more?” Keith said is a common thought he has. That personal mantra has made it hard to enjoy life, but it’s also pushed him to work hard.
“I think going through all of this is one of the reasons I enjoyed being a high school principal and being able to talk to people,” Keith elaborated. “I think I had a good feel of where they were because I was able to read people and relate to them because I spent my childhood trying to figure out where my dad was and how to de-escalate situations when needed.”
When it comes to his father, Keith seems unsure if closure will ever happen for him personally.
“How do you close something that’s been open for so long?” Keith said. “Something you’ve lived with, something that’s been a part of your life that length of time.”
Note: As of press time, the Kentucky State Police Post leading the investigation has not responded to requests for comments. Additionally, while the Barren County Progress appreciates the transparency of Keith Hale’s experiences as a child, we have chosen to leave some details out in order to reduce the possibilities of retraumatization for other individuals with similar experiences.