Homer C. "Bud" Rutherford, 79, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant who pushed to improve conditions at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, died of cancer Feb. 14 at the historic home for veterans, where he lived.

In 2005, Mr. Rutherford was spokesman for residents at the home who filed a class-action lawsuit against then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, contending that the top military official had enforced undue and illegal cutbacks for on-site medical and dental services. The Defense Department manages the retirement home in Northwest Washington, previously called the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home.

Mr. Rutherford, who served on the Resident Advisory Council, was among several residents who spoke to members of Congress and staff members of the House and Senate armed services committees to try to rectify the problems. The lawsuit became a last resort, Mr. Rutherford said at the time.

"This is why we're following through with this class-action suit," he told the Associated Press in 2005. "We feel we have nowhere else to go, and we feel that it is something that is vitally necessary for the health and welfare of the American veterans who are here at the home."

In their lawsuit, Mr. Rutherford and other residents cited the closing in 2003 of the home's main clinic and a pharmacy, removal of X-ray and electrocardiogram services and decreases in annual physicals and the number of dentists.

Also at the retirement home, Mr. Rutherford was a volunteer supervisor at the wood shop and made plaques and desks for children at the Fisher House, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

When the home's thrift shop was scheduled to be closed, Mr. Rutherford found volunteers to work there. "He saved the thrift shop," said his son, Kevin Rutherford, adding that the retirement home plans to name the thrift store for his father.

Last year, he received a presidential award for volunteer service.

Mr. Rutherford was born at Fort Bragg, N.C., and enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942. He served for more than 23 years before retiring at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, N.C., in 1969. He graduated from what was then Methodist College with a bachelor's degree in history and English in 1972.

After retiring, he taught history, civics and English in junior and senior high schools for nearly 12 years in Fayetteville. In 1984, he and his wife moved to Surfside Beach in South Carolina, where they operated a locksmith business for about 15 years. He retired in 1999 and shortly thereafter moved to Washington.

In addition to his son, of Houston, survivors include his wife, Mary Rutherford of Conway, S.C., whom he married in 1953; a daughter, Becky Jo Skipper of Conway; a sister, Shirley Hoffman of Fayetteville; a brother, William "Billy" Rutherford of Fairfax; and three grandchildren.