LIMA – Friends and family called him a visionary, a successful entrepreneur and a community leader like few others.
John Rudolph, who founded and built Rudolph Foods into a multi-million dollar corporation, died Tuesday morning following a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 88.
In the books of many, John Rudolph was affectionately known as Mr. Rudolph. He was the engine that drove the city's major development projects. He spearheaded construction of the Lima Streetscape project in the 1970’s, the Lima/Allen County Civic and Convention Center in the 1980’s, a new downtown YMCA in the 1990’s and the Ottawa River Bike Path extension in 2008. His most recent project was the restoration of the Schnorf Building, an 1880’s historic landmark currently used to house the Chamber of Commerce and City Club.
“When John got his mind set on something, it was getting done. That’s what was so enjoyable working with him,” said longtime friend Sandy MacDonnell.
Lima Mayor David Berger said Mr. Rudolph could envision things that others failed to see. “Once a week he would call to remind me about things that needed to get done. He wanted to know what was happening with projects, big and small. He truly loved this community.”
Mr. Rudolph worked tirelessly to build his snack food company, initially making specialty nuts when it opened in 1955. The company's niche, pork rinds, came with the help of his wife of 64 years, Mary.
In 1966, John and Mary sold the company to giant Beatrice Foods, after which Mr. Rudolph continued serving as president of Rudolph Foods and as vice president at Beatrice, managing 15 other companies. In 1968, John also founded Rudolph Investment Company and was joined by his son Phil in 1975. In this successful venture they developed commercial real estate, built shopping centers, restaurants, office buildings, apartments, residential developments and other commercial buildings.
Their love, however, was always Rudolph Foods.
In 1987, the Rudolph family repurchased Rudolph Foods and resumed active day-to-day operation of the business. Mr. Rudolph would never retire. Today, the company consists of seven domestic and two international plants and are managed by his sons, Jim and Rich.
“Dad loved working, he loved being around the people. He showed up for work just a few weeks prior to his death,” Rich Rudolph said.
Jim Rudolph pointed to his father’s “ethics and passion over the years to serve the community.” Mr. Rudolph 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 is survived by his wife of 64 years, Mary. They had five children – the late Phil Rudolph, Kathy Rudolph, Susie Cornell, Jim and Rich -- and lived in a farm house on Slabtown Road that has been in Mary's family since 1831. He grew up on a dairy farm outside of Toledo and they met while attending college in Bowling Green.
Calling hours will be from 2 to 4 and 5 to 8 p.m Friday at Chiles-Laman Funeral Home, and one hour before services Saturday at the church. A service of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m..Saturday at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.