Emma Wassman Rudi

Honored by:Norman Rudi
Brick location:D:13  map

Emma Wassman was born in rural Ocheyedan, Osceola County, Iowa, November 24, 1884. She was the second eldest of five children, and spent her early years in this area where her father was a respected farmer, County Auditor, and Banker. She attended rural school in Horton Township, Osceola County.

In 1901, the local Lutheran Parochial school was visited by a seminary student fulfilling his school mission teaching requirements. This slender Texan, Frederick Hendrick Rudi, was attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri and their meeting started a long distance romance. After his graduation in 1903, he returned to Ocheyedan where, on August 20, 1903, they were married.

Reverend Rudi had accepted a pastoral call in 1902 to Clifton, Texas, located between San Antonio and Houston, in a rural area settled by German immigrants in the late 1890's. In 1903 Emma left the green fields and frigid winters of Iowa for brown, dusty, cow country of south Texas, which was to be her home until 1912.

Their marriage produced eleven children, all who grew to adulthood. Their pastoral calling was spent in three different congregations, in three states. Their life together raising a family spanned the turbulent ten's, a devastating world war, the ebullient twenties, the trials of the depression, a second world conflagration, and the after war recovery and technological advances.

Five children were born at their first pastorate in Clifton. In 1912, they responded to a pastoral call to rural Tilsit, at Jackson Missouri. Reverend Rudi served there until 1920, when they moved their family north to Glidden, Iowa. Reverend Rudi served the Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) until his retirement in 1943.

Their Children were:

Walter (1904) a high school scholar and athlete who died of pneumonia as a senior in high school.

Carl (1906) Graduated in Electrical Engineering from Ames College (now ISU) prominent in athletics and Cardinal Key. He married Helen Heperly, also an Ames College Graduate.

Gertrude (1908) A creative person, married Frank P Clawson.

Elvira (1910) Trained as a nurse. Married Orville Prill, died in childbirth at twenty two.

Anita (1912) Music teacher/organist, married butter maker Gordon Junker.

Martha (1915) Born with grand mal epilepsy, passed away at twenty eight.

Edgar (1916) Served with the 34th Division front line medical group for four years in North Africa and Italy. A University of Iowa graduate, became an Audio-visual specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals. Married Nadine Beckner.

Frederick (1919) served five years with Patton and the Ninth Armored Division at Bastogne, Bridge at Remagen and the race into Germany. Awarded the Croix de Guerre from Luxembourg in 1946. Rural Mail Carrier in Glidden, Iowa. Married Arlene Elliott.

Harold (1922) Served four years with the U.S. Navy Armed Guard as a signalman aboard merchant ships taking supplies across the north Atlantic to England and Murmansk, Russia. After graduation from the University of Arizona, was personnel director for Hughes Tool and Die, Tucson. Married Kathleen Sporleder.

Louella (1924) National Honor Society, attended Iowa State College. Married Lowell B. Fisher ISC and West Point graduate, career military officer, bomber pilot and missile commander.

Norman (1928) Served in Army of Occupation, Japan in paratroops. Graduated from the University of Oklahoma Architect. Married Ann Andrews.

Frederick and Emma's lives were not without trial and tragedy, apprehension and fear. But they were also filled with love, expectancy, hope, accomplishment, and thanks for their many blessings.

Reverend Rudi was not only father to his flock, but father to the entire congregation, who needed and received considerable attention through the many difficult times. Consequently, a great majority of the rearing, feeding, and caring fell squarely on Emma's shoulders.

The family was raised without the contemporary conveniences of electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, and modern food storage. They maintained an enormous garden and, the entire summer was preparation for surviving the winters. She canned vegetables, fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, odd cuts of beef received from parishioners and tomatoes. They maintained a chicken yard for eggs and fast food when Pastor Hermann of Lidderdale dropped by unexpectedly with his family of thirteen. The wrapping of golden delicious apples in newspaper and placed in the dirt floor basement was a family fall ritual.

During the thirties, to supplement a minister’s income, Reverend Rudi started a small greenhouse raising tomato, cabbage, and pepper plants which were marketed to the community. The purchaser of three dozen tomato plants and a dozen cabbage plants usually went home with a loaf of Emma’s homemade bread, which certainly enhanced sales. It was impossible to view the plants without coffee and cookies being forced upon you.  This proved to be a bonus during retirement years in a large Victorian home on the east side of town, when literally, hundreds of visitors would stop by for plants, coffee and cookies, brad and homemade jam.

Emma provided for her large family in many ways. She was usually making comforters and blankets from scrap clothing. No child left home for unknown without one of her patchwork wool and flannel winter blankets. Clothing was carefully mended and laid away for the next recycling. The worn linoleum was periodically repainted and stenciled or sponge patterned to look new and fresh. She saw that rooms were always painted, and curtains and drapes were periodically replaced with the efforts of her treadle sewing machine. At meals she could stretch a pound of hamburger to feed ten. Sunday dinner was chicken, two kinds of potatoes, three vegetables, and two kinds of pie plus the mandatory oatmeal cookies, milk and coffee.

Emma was a five foot three dynamo, whose workday was from five thirty AM until the last child was accounted for, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Vacations were unknown. An occasional trip to visit a married daughter, or church dinners were her only variation from the routine of providing for her brood. She understood the individual personalities of her children, and responded to them to them while maintaining her strength and personal identity. Although not without a few personal prejudices and strongly held ideas, she could be firm, and warm at the same time. Her one incongruity was in calling every daughter-in-law “girl”, which must have saved the embarrassment of attaching the wrong wife to one of her sons. Being buxom in stature, her thirty grand children were read numerous poems and stories nestled in her ample lap.

The chrome trimmed, corn cob burning, kitchen range was the heart and center of the Rudi home, and it was Emma’s domain. It not only furnished the bread, and cookies and basic sustenance for the family, it also heated one-half of the house, and provided bath water. When the luxury of running water, an oil fired indoor furnace, and indoor plumbing changed that aspect of family living, the kitchen stove remained. Years later, when a new electric stove was purchased, it was placed next to the corncob fueled range since Emma did not trust the temperature controls of the electric stove.

Reverend Rudi passed away May 4, 1962, after a brief illness which required intensive care by his bride of fifty nine years.

Emma Wassman Rudi died January 8, 1965 of a heart ailment. She was active and busy every day of her life, following her heritage and the mores of her generation. By example and deed, by concerns and needs, she fulfilled her role as Pastors wife, mother and grandmother with calm and reassurance through six decades of social and political turmoil and tragedy. Although she was not a marching political activist, her lifetime of love and “mothering” represents the foundation and constancy of family survival in our Plaza of Heroines. 

Submitted on 12/15/94