The SXSW Family is grieving over the loss of longtime SXSW Special Venues Crew Chief, Tope Ruiz. Tope passed suddenly on August 3rd in San Antonio following complications from an infection that damaged his heart. Tope joined the SXSW staff in 1996 to help manage crowd safety on the streets of Austin during SXSW. In recent years, his background in urban planning had played a critical role in SXSW's development of a comprehensive safety plan covering all of downtown Austin. In this process, Tope became certified in Crowd Dynamics Management through Buck's New University in the UK.
He is survived by his wife Marianna Ortega Ruiz and daughter Olivia Neko Ruiz.
"Have you ever had a friend who always took the opposing side of a conversation? To me that friend was Tope, I will miss that. He kept me balanced and opened my eyes to alternative ways of accomplishing our goals. There were sometimes where we would need to just walk away from each other for a cool down period after a heated discussion. And then after a minute it was back to business. Tope was a free thinker and always thought out side of the box. He saw the world in a way that most of us wish we could. He was fascinated by technology, music, anime, and all things geeky. At times he appeared to be oblivious to what others thought of certain things he liked, or he just didn't care. This gave him the freedom to truly explore life in its fullest rather than simply exist the way so many of us do."
"Tope and I crossed paths through mutual friends, some where around 1993 at a coffee shop hang out in San Antonio. He was a goofy bright eyed teenager with an infectious smile. Our group of friends became involved in Kerrville Folk Music festival, One World Music festival, Old Settlers Music Festival, and South by Southwest. Todd Puckhaber invited us to SXSW and after 17 years Thor, Tope, and I were still the driving force behind the Special Venues Crew. He was a dependable, empathetic, and compassionate soul. There were many a time over the years where I would need assistance with some mundane task and Tope would volunteer to come help without hesitation and always with a smile."
"It has been a great journey growing up along side Tope and watching him mature into a man. I was very fortunate to be there for many of the highlights in Tope's adulthood. I think the two happiest moments were the day of his wedding and the day his daughter was born."
"This is one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. So many thoughts and feelings come to light with this loss. It has been a privilege to be able to call Tope my friend, and for this I am forever grateful. There are no words that can truly capture how unique an individual Tope was. He will be missed."
JP Gonzalez, SXSW Special Venues Crew Chief
"Tope and I grew up across the street from each other. We used to watch the newest Beavis & Butthead while sharing his mother's newest baked treat. The show alone was great fun viewing with him, but through his insistence, always, we'd have something extra to accompany our viewing ritual to make it a better experience. He tried to do this kind of thing with every aspect of his life, which counterbalanced my own curmudgeonly outlook nicely. He kept us busy, entertained, and enriched while I essentially and perpetually played crossing guard for this fun hunting, ageless kid who'd run across any street to make his or his friends' moments >better. Without his constant drive for the new and worthwhile, none of our pack would have found our way to some of the greatest >and perspective-widening events and people of our lives, including SXSW. I'll always be grateful for getting caught in his wake of boundless enthusiasm. So I thank Greg for where I am and the kind of man I am today."
Thorr Thompson, SXSW Staff
"17 years ago, while at a festival outside of Austin, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Greg although at the time, I only knew him as Tope. I later learned that the head-butt he so generously gave me and others was called a Tope. That first weekend, I saw firsthand his charm and composure hard at work, so a year later when I had the opportunity to develop a crowd management team at SXSW called SVC (Special Venues Crew), I immediately thought of him. Ever since, he has been one of the key members to the ongoing success of the team.He was truly a kind and generous man. He was a colleague and a friend. He will be dearly missed."
Todd Puckhaber, SXSW Staff
"Tope could kill a snarling crowd with his kindness and tame any situation with his smile. I'll miss his bear hugs that let me know that everything was going to be alright during the craziest of nights. He was a great leader and I am truly lucky to have had him in my life, both as a friend and colleague. There are no words that truly describe the contagious personality of Tope. His spirit will linger on the streets every year during SXSW and everyone that knew him will relive memories of him for many years to come. You will be dearly missed, Tope."
Tami Richter, SXSW Staff
"I've watched Tope hold back 1000 people just by holding up his hands and keeping a smile on his face. Whenever I'd come across a tense situation in the streets during SXSW, it was always a relief to see him on duty. He exuded calm and certainty, and people would follow his lead. I know his work with SXSW was just one small part of his life, but he handled it with grace, and he cared about the people he was helping. I know he brought those same qualities to all the other parts of his life. My heart goes out to his wife and child and the rest of his family."
Roland Swenson, SXSW Managing Director
"You know that feeling you get when you're doing work that's really hard, both physically and mentally demanding, and you start to wonder if you can or should keep it up? Maybe you start to question the wisdom of the endeavor at all? That's the feeling that I often get during SXSW, usually just as it's starting... Then I always see Tope. He'll smile, tell a joke, and coax a huge, not-quite-but-nearly unruly crowd that all there is to do is to relax and enjoy the moment, have fun. Maybe not make order from chaos, but make chaos tolerable, livable, the best you could ask for. That's a rare trick. I'm going to really miss him and the magic he made. I'm far from alone in that."
Brent Grulke (1961-2012), SXSW Creative Director