Dr Ruddy and Mr Rabbé

Photography : Camille Noyon - Text : Elisabeth Grosdhomme
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« I’ve done a lot of stupide things ». With the distance that maturity brings, Ruddy Rabbé casts a half-disapproving, half-nostalgic judgment on the tumultuous years of his youth. Fifteen years spent between playing truant at school and riding motorbike rodeos at night, petty crimes and chases with the police, before turning a page.

At thirty years old, Ruddy Rabé married his teenage sweetheart, had a son and the firm intention to raise him with good principles, and started working as a stonecutter, just as his parents and grandparents used to do, and, even before that, his stonemason ancestors for four generations. Since then, he has been dedicating his daytime to engraving inscriptions on street plaques, funerary monuments or commemorative stones with the pride of perpetuating a family tradition and rooting his work, as modest as it is, in the long term memory, the homage due to the dead and to the great characters in our history.

At night however, once he has put away his stonecutter’s tools, Ruddy Rabbé takes up another passion: restoring « beautiful Americans », those mythical cars from the 1950-1960’s, Pontiacs, Chevrolets, or even Ford Mustangs. In his workshop, for himself or for his clients, he tears down, repairs and rebuilds piece-by-piece cars that have sometimes been recovered as complete wrecks. When spare parts are difficult to find, too expensive to buy from the manufacturer or too rare on the second-hand market, the restoration of a vehicle can take several years. But patience has its rewards: the joy of seeing these iconic cars run again on the road.

After having worked for several hours in his workshop, Ruddy Rabbé sometimes likes to escape into the forest. He has equipped an old motocross with extra-powerful headlights and a silencer. After midnight, he rides away onto forest roads. Contrary to what you might believe, it is when the motor is off that animals become afraid and flee, but with the motor on, Ruddy Rabbé is often fortunate enough to meet deers and stags and travel alongside them.

And it is again at night that, in April of 2015, Ruddy Rabbé saved Senlis from a severe gas explosion. While getting out of his workshop to try a car he was restoring, he noticed a powerful electrical arc on an pylon, then a gas smell, a crackling noise and finally the asphalt rising up and cracking through the roadwork. A short-circuit had caused a subterranean electrical cable fire; the fire had in turn melted a plastic gas conduit and the gas was spilling fast. After having so often, as a youngster, played cat and mouse with the security forces, Ruddy Rabbé was on their side this time, called the firemen and the gendarmes for an emergency intervention. In the morning, half of the town’s inhabitants woke up without electricity nor heat, ignoring they had escaped much worse.

For his retirement, Ruddy Rabbé dreams of buying a small house in Corsica. He would spend a few months there every year and would come back to Senlis the rest of the time, where he is tied down by so many memories and friendships.

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