One of 14 children growing up in Alabama, she figured out how to use duct tape to hold her shoes together.
Through times of profits and losses, she held together the small but wildly popular Century Motorcycle business founded by her father, "Wild Bill" Cottom, in San Pedro.
And for the past two years, she waged an epic -- and very public -- fight against ovarian cancer through defiant Facebook posts sent out to her 1,050 friends, shaking her proverbial fist at her disease until the end.
Rutherford ultimately lost the battle this week.
Born Feb. 27, 1946, in Birmingham, Ala., the San Pedro resident died Thursday at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. She was 66.
Often sporting expletive-laced T-shirts that might have made some uninitiated readers blush, Rutherford chronicled her crushing bouts with the aftereffects of her many chemotherapy treatments. She proudly posted pictures of her newfound "bald" look after losing her hair as her cheering fans replied with "way-to-go" and "keep-up-the-fight" comments.
"In every post she had a smile on her face," said longtime friend Mike Vaughan of Oceanside. "It's a big loss. I was stunned."
Those who watched the ongoing battle through their computer screens "never saw anything quite like it," said friend Don Emde, the publisher of a motorcycle parts trade magazine and president of the Trailblazers, a motorcycle club that honored Rutherford a year ago.
Close friends, however, weren't surprised by Rutherford's courage and never-say- die attitude.
"She really plowed through it. She never moaned or whimpered," Vaughan said.
"They broke the mold when they made her," said her partner of 27 years, Mike Gaffney.
Described by one friend as always the "life of the party," Rutherford was passionate about anything she embraced - from rock 'n' roll music to her beloved 10-year-old German shepherd, Girldawg.
"She'd show up for events in a fireman's hat and a pink tutu and riding in a sidecar," Vaughan said. "She was a little outrageous, whatever passed through her mind came out."
Growing up, Rutherford (a 1964 San Pedro High graduate) became her father's sidekick at Century Motorcycles at 1640 S. Pacific Ave. That's where Rutherford learned the art of fixing, selling - and appreciating - vintage and new motorcycles from the ground up.
She met many of the greats through the years, including Jim Hunter of BSA racing fame and Grand National Champion ex-racer Bart Markel.
It was something Hunter said that Rutherford used for her "Favorite Quotation" on her Facebook page:
"Don't trust any of them, not even if they are holding hands with Jesus."
She listed her preferences in religion and politics as "none of the above."
Eventually, Rutherford became general manager of the family store and then took the business over when her father died in 1993, continuing the store's legendary Father's Day open house and Christmas party events.
Her son, Tim Parrish, will now carry on the family business and tradition.
"She was an honest, hardworking person who would give the shirt off her back for just about anybody," Parrish said. "She was the nicest person you could ever meet. She was very open, funny, smart and wise. ... She had just an amazing life."
Rutherford's last Facebook post was dated Oct. 25:
"I got my port in yesterday," she wrote. "I am receiving nutrition thru a tube. I hope to be on my feet soon. I just finished my 72nd chemo treatment today. I love you all. Thank you for all the cards and letters. I'm weak but I'm not gone. ..."
And then, the posts went silent. Her friends and fans were quick to notice and began posting their prayers and well wishes.
"Just because we don't hear you doesn't mean we aren't thinking about you and continually praying for you!!" one woman posted.
In addition to Parrish and Gaffney, Rutherford is survived by a son, James Floyd, and a sister, Boots Knowles of Florida.
Services are pending but the family is discussing a tentative Dec. 9 memorial at Century Motorcycles.
Rutherford's cremated ashes will be placed alongside her father's inside the motorcycle shop.
Follow Donna Littlejohn on Twitter at http://twitter.com/donnalittlejohn