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Remembering the life of John Rudolph

Rudolph Foods John RudolphJohn Rudolph, the successful entrepreneur, community leader and family man who heralded Rudolph Foods Corporation from making pork rinds to the global snack leader that it is today, died on April 16 after a struggle with health issues, at the age of 88. Mr. Rudolph, as most affectionately referred to him, passed peacefully, surrounded by his family in his Lima, Ohio farmhouse.

Born near Toledo, Ohio on September 16, 1924, to John and Verna Libbe Rudolph, John Rudolph graduated from Lake High School and spent three years serving in the U.S. Army as a Tech Sargent in Germany during World War II. He was a fan of basketball, playing in both high school and college. In 1948, John graduated from Bowling Green University with a B.A. in Business Management and married his college sweetheart Mary Miller, later settling in Lima, Ohio.

Launching Rudolph Foods in 1955, John Rudolph never retired and stayed involved in the business, even going to the office within the last few weeks of his life. He made sure that the Rudolph Foods’ culture continued to adopt and embrace his “can do” attitude, crediting those who worked for him for helping to build the company throughout the years. His experience in the snack food industry included a variety of leadership roles within the Snack Food Association, the Food Industries Center at The Ohio State University, and the Young Presidents Organization.

Passionate about his community, he served as President of the Lima Rotary Club, the Lima Chamber of Commerce, the Lima YMCA Board of Directors, and St. Luke’s Church Council. He was chairman of a United Way Campaign and served as a board member for both Lima Memorial Hospital and Tower Bank (Bank One). Mr. Rudolph had vision to make Lima better and helped to lead several significant community projects including; construction of the Lima Streetscape project, Lima/Allen County Civic and Convention Center, the New Lima YMCA, Ottawa River Bike Path extension, and the restoration of the Schnorf Building (now housing the Chamber of Commerce). He talked fondly of Lima often saying, “I love this town”.

Known for having a passion for everything “big and small,” John Rudolph loved life. He adored his loving wife of 64 years, Mary, who survives him; 4 children, Kathy Rudolph, Susie Cornell, Jim Rudolph, and Rich (Jan) Rudolph, all of Lima; a daughter-in-law, Nancy Rudolph, of Lima; 8 grandchildren, Elizabeth (David) Entinghe, Caroline Rudolph, Johnny Rudolph, John Cornell, Sarah Cornell, Ryan Malooly, Skyler Malooly, and Zion Rudolph; 4 siblings, Philip Rudolph, Mary Oberdick, Helyn (Chuck) Kurfess, and Kathleen (Ron) Holzman, all of Toledo; and 2 sisters-in-law, Marilyn Rudolph and Nancy Rudolph, both of Toledo.

He was preceded in death by a son, Philip Rudolph; 2 brothers, Fritz Rudolph and Kermit Rudolph; a sister-in-law, Iris Rudolph; and a brother-in-law, Bob Oberdick. He is also preceded in death by siblings of his beloved Mary; Eldon and Helene Miller, and John and Helen Downie.

Well regarded as a catalyst for change and a natural-born leader, John Rudolph was a family man and a driven visionary with a passion for life. He will forever be admired by his family, friends, coworkers, and community.

A service of Christian burial was celebrated Saturday, April 20, 2013 at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. In his memory, donations may be made to the Lima YMCA or St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. For online condolences, visit chiles-lamanfh.com.

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John Rudolph's Eulogy delivered by the Mayor of Lima, Ohio, David Berger

A dear friend has left us. I say that as an individual who valued John Rudolph as a personal friend and I say it as a community leader who understands how much John loved our community and who let his actions speak very loudly about that love.

A dear friend has left us.

I did not know John in my early years in Lima, but I had heard the rumor of him. I had heard of his political weight and connections. I had heard of his entrepreneurial spirit and success. I had heard that things got done when he was involved. But I did not know John.

In the early ‘80's, I was enrolled in a year-long real estate development training curriculum in Baltimore, Maryland, and as part of the course we were required to secure a mentor for ourselves. I looked around our community and asked for advice and was pointed repeatedly to John, whom I did not know.

So, eventually, after working up the courage I called his office and asked for an appointment. When I met with John and explained why I was bothering him, he made it very clear that it was not a bother at all. He made the conversation easy. And in pretty short order John had agreed to spend time with me and to advise me. We became friends.

What became very clear as we met periodically was the wide range of interests that John had, the love and pride that he had in his family, his employees, his business and his community, and the abundance of energy to attend to all that he loved all at once. Never stopping. Always driving. Continuously looking for how to clear road blocks. Seldom burning bridges. Always watching for new opportunities. And with an attitude that never, never, never accepted defeat.

In these latter years when John was ill, this approach to life did not change. In fact I think it became more intense. As his body began to fail him, he relied on others to assist him to get where he needed to be. He would not miss a meeting. As his speech became more difficult, he would not hide and would not be embarrassed. He worked to spit it out. Whether at home, at the office or in Florida, he would call, he would call my staff, he would call others. He wanted updates on projects, he proposed new projects, he demanded that meetings be pulled together to explore additional approaches. He made suggestions, pointed to issues that needed attention and would not accept the idea that things could not be solved. He was not going to let his body be an excuse for not continuing to create positive dynamic change, visual change, in Lima, Allen County, the community that he loved.

Indeed, a dear friend has left us. And what he has left us are glorious monuments to his having been here. A loving, talented family. A successful global business enterprise. New and renewed buildings and facilities in the heart of our community and in the region.

Most importantly, John, our dear friend, has left us with an incredible example of how, regardless of the challenges, to live a life that mattered, for himself, his loved ones, his friends and his community.

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