Noel S. Ruiz, Founder and Executive Director of Long Island's Creative Ministries, Dies at 58

By Steven Carl McCasland
17 Sep 2013

Noel S. Ruiz
Noel S. Ruiz

Noel S. Ruiz, founder and executive director of Long Island's Creative Ministries, died on Sept. 15 at the age of 58. He was at a wedding, celebrating with loved ones, when he became ill. Cause of death has not yet been determined.

Born in Cuba, Ruiz came to the United States as a refugee with his parents at the age of 6. He was raised in Islip Terrace and attended St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip before pursuing his passion for ministry.

After serving as a youth minister at St. John Nepomucene Roman Catholic Church in Bohemia, Ruiz founded Creative Ministries in 1987, producing a dramatic retelling of the crucifixion. The end result was an interpretation of the Stations of the Cross that used dance, music and pantomime to share the story with audiences. Twenty-six years later, "The Journey, Cross and Crucifixion" is still performed by more than 30 different players in three traveling troupes in schools and churches across Long Island and the outer boroughs. 

In 1997, Ruiz expanded the reach of Creative Ministries to a physical stage. He backed the renovation of the long neglected Oakdale Movie Theatre into a home base for Creative Ministries, and the theatre is now known as the CM Performing Arts Center, a not-for-profit organization and "home" to those seeking to participate in community theatre. Under Ruiz's direction, the theatre has flourished for 16 years and produced a number of beloved works, such as Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof and their inaugural production of Man of La Mancha.

"It was always the tag line," said Terry Brennan, marketing director and friend. "That he dreamed 'The Impossible Dream' and it came true."



CM Performing Arts Center now produces five mainstage productions each season, along with children's theatre and special events and is home to a year-round performing arts school for children across Long Island.

"Noel had an uncommon talent for stagecraft and storytelling," said frequent performer and colleague Jordan Hue. "One only had to see a single one of his productions to know that this was the case. He also had a rare and precious gift for seeing the beauty and potential in others, evidenced in those he surrounded himself with. I am so grateful and feel so privileged to exist in the community that he helped to create. He made it a beautiful place to live."

Ruiz recently spoke of marrying his longtime partner, Joseph Campanello, in 2014. "He's one of the most loving men," Campanello said. "He used theatre and music as a way of bringing people together."

In addition to Campanello, Ruiz is survived by his father and mother, Francisco and Daysi Ruiz; sisters Maria Ruiz and Aelyn Baney; a brother, Frannol Ruiz, as well as nine nieces and nephews.

A memorial at CM Performing Arts Center will be planned in the near future.