Beloved Atlanta Ambassador Force member grateful for chance to retire

Well-liked Atlanta Ambassador Force Captain Renee Perdue Rucker wraps up 22 years of exceptional customer service today. A prominent figure throughout the Atlanta hospitality community, she’s been a fixture at pre-convention and safety meetings as well as various events at the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s (GWCCA) downtown campus.

“Renee has been a part of our GWCCA family for a long time. Her smiling face is always a breath of fresh air at a meeting or event where she’s present,” said Erik Waldman, GWCCA Senior Director of Special Events.

The Atlanta Ambassador Force is a group of 41 men and women who strive to improve the experience of any tourist or resident downtown. They patrol a 200-block area from North Avenue south to Memorial Drive, and from the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) east to the Downtown Connector. Rucker has been a member of the Ambassador team since 1996, and is an original member of the unit, which was created in time for Atlanta’s Summer Olympics.

“We’re easy to spot: We’re the folks dressed in red and blue who are patrolling the sidewalks — either on bicycles or zipping around on Segways,” reads an excerpt from the Ambassador’s website.

With a passion for providing great customer service, Rucker has been working in the hospitality field for 40 years. She started out as a travel agent for American Express Travel and then became an Atlanta Ambassador, where she moved up the ranks to eventually become a manager.

Retiring Atlanta Ambassador Force Capt. Renee Rucker (right), with U.S. Congressman John Lewis (center) and Timothy Belyeu (left), a member of the Ambassador Force’s Clean Team.

Rucker originally hoped to retire at the age of 59, but she almost didn’t get a chance to when she suffered a heart attack on May 31. Looking back, the day was a blur for Rucker.

“I don’t remember this day at all, I just remember saying I had a headache and a little chest pain,” she said.

On the morning of her heart attack, Rucker was at work when she suddenly became unresponsive, collapsing on her desk. T.J. Thomas, a co-worker, noticed her condition and immediately began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). When she remained unresponsive, Thomas utilized a nearby automated external defibrillator (AED) on Rucker to regain her pulse. Once emergency medical services (EMS) arrived on the scene, they transported her to Grady Hospital. Rucker was eventually induced into a coma for three days as part of her recovery process.

The aftermath of this experience included five percent heart damage and an impaired throat, which required surgery. After her release from the hospital, she started going to Emory Rehabilitation Hospital and began her journey to recovery. Rucker’s rehabilitation consisted of exercises focused on regaining her daily strength as well as memory. She also plans to visit a speech pathologist to continue healing her damaged throat.

Rucker’s coworkers made a touching video tribute to her – check it out here.

Rucker’s first day back at the GWCC was Sept. 4 where she received a hearty welcome, but due to the physically demanding nature of her position, she recently submitted her retirement notice.

“One name quickly comes to mind when I think of an Atlanta Ambassador: Renee Rucker. Her friendly smile, helpful stance, and endless knowledge about our lovely city is invaluable. Her hospitality will be missed,” said GWCCA Sales Manager Tiffany Bowers.