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Dale Rudolph's last act of service
POULSBO — As the end of his life neared, Dale Rudolph committed one final act of service.
“I took a cool washcloth to wipe his brow,” his sister, Carol Zimmer, recalled. “He took it away from me, took my hands and washed them carefully, then took his wife’s hand and did the same. This gesture demonstrated his love for his family.”
His brother-in-law, Ted Portmann, added, “[He] left showing more courage than I could ever imagine.”
Rudolph, president of the Poulsbo Historical Society and a former longtime member of the Poulsbo City Council, died July 6 at 7:25 a.m. after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis, according to his family. He was 65.
A celebration of his life is scheduled for Aug. 3, 2 p.m., at Rudolph’s church, North Kitsap Baptist Church, 20516 Little Valley Road NE, Poulsbo. A reception will continue at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway on Front Street.
Rudolph is being remembered as a devoted public servant who loved Poulsbo.
“I thought he was probably one of the best thinkers on council,” said Jim Shields, historical society vice president and retired fire chief. “I know he was very thorough. He was a spark plug, he was a leader.”
With portable oxygen tank and laptop computer, Rudolph worked with the museum board right up until the end, Shields said.
Rudolph’s son, Nathanael, emailed from Japan that his dad was a loving and generous man with an infectious smile.
“He was a lover of reading, of learning, of singing and of yelling at sports on the TV. As a father, he was patient and supportive, always providing a listening ear, wise insight and, at times, gentle correction.
“His daughter-in-law and granddaughters simply adored him. Above all, he believed in God, and shared that power and hope with his family, particularly in his last days. He really was a special person.”
Rudolph’s family moved to Poulsbo in 1958 when he was 10. His father Curt Rudolph — who would serve as councilman from 1974-85 and as mayor for much of 1985 — purchased the Poulsbo Bowl, a 12-lane bowling alley on State Route 305, with his brother-in-law. The younger Rudolph cleaned lanes in the alley before school and earned $1 per shift keeping score during weekend tournaments, according to the local history book, “The Spirit of Poulsbo.”
Rudolph graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1966 and studied engineering at the University of Washington. He worked for the Department of Defense at Naval Base Keyport and Bangor. After retiring, he worked as a contract regional planner for the Navy.
When city planners began putting together Poulsbo’s first Comprehensive Plan in 1993, Rudolph took an interest. He attended citizen advisory committee meetings, and was soon appointed to the committee when one of its members bowed out.
Months later, he was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the council by then-Mayor Mitch Mitchusson, who had worked closely with Rudolph’s father on the council. The younger Rudolph served on the council for 17 years, retiring in 2010.
“I guess the Rudolph family is about as close as we have in the modern era to a Poulsbo political dynasty, kind of like a Kennedy or Bush,” said Councilman Ed Stern, who worked alongside Rudolph for 20 years. “His dad, Curt, served on council and held things together as acting mayor during the transition in [the] early ’80s.
“Dale was very proud of his dad. I believe that it was in no small measure, [Rudolph] serving on the council as carrying out that legacy.”
During Dale Rudolph’s time on the council, he was liaison to the historical society. Former Mayor Donna Jean Bruce floated the idea to current Mayor Becky Erickson to create a Poulsbo Historical Museum, according to the PHS board.
Rudolph “jumped” on the negotiations with the city to set up a contract between the museum and the city, and was the “moving force” for negotiating space for the historical society’s museum in the new city hall, said Bob Hawkinson, former historical society board member.
In its statement announcing Rudolph’s death, the historical society wrote, “It was another example of Dale’s persistence, hard work and tenacity that carried it through, and allowed us to open our doors, offering the community and visitors a unique and quite amazing historical repository and museum that showcases the Poulsbo area and heritage.”
Hawkinson has known Rudolph since they were children, playing “yard basketball” in their Finn Hill neighborhood.
“Dale was always very passionate about Poulsbo and loved Poulsbo. He always wanted to make it a better place,” Hawkinson said.
Rudolph also served on the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council and the Puget Sound Regional Council. He helped guide the city through Growth Management Act planning, the creation of College Marketplace, the development of the Poulsbo Place neighborhood and the new city hall.
“He was very no-nonsense, very opinionated, and most of the time very right,” Stern said.
“[He] and I had our share of agreements and disagreements, but we always had respect for each other. He was committed to having Poulsbo grow, but have it grow right and stay Poulsbo.”
Mayor Erickson said Rudolph was an early political mentor for her.
“He loved Poulsbo,” she said. “He had this stewardship and affection of a person who deeply loved this community. He worked tirelessly, did his homework … I didn’t always agree with him, but I never doubted his respect and affection for the community.”
According to the historical society, “Dale was admired greatly for his strength of will, his positive ‘never give up’ attitude, his quiet passion and compassion, his smile and his excitement and enthusiasm for the museum, his friends and family. ... He will be missed.”
Rudolph’s family remembers his faith in God and involvement with Men’s Ministry and the Stewardship Committee at his church; his love of singing, especially traditional Irish songs; and his love of sports, especially Husky basketball. Rudolph was also a volunteer coach for youth T-ball, softball, baseball and basketball.
“It was so fun to watch sports with my Dad, as he had an amazing memory for statistics,” daughter Dulce Henry emailed. “We played cards, Scrabble, and Triominos for hours. He’d tell me about what was going on with the Poulsbo City Council or Historical Society or whatever else he was involved in.“He’d tell me about the books he was reading (what an avid reader) or all about the history or where he and my Mom were planning to travel next. My Dad always had solid, thoughtful advice for me when it came to work and life, and he gave me strong, warm hugs whenever I arrived and prepared to leave.”
Rudolph’s twin sister, Dawn Portmann, said her brother had a “helping people kind of mentality” that was exercised by service on the City Council.She said her brother was No. 1 on the regional lung transplant list, but didn’t receive the transplant soon enough. Up to his last breath, Portmann said he never complained.
Older sister Carol Zimmer said she will first remember him as her younger brother.
“When I think of my brother … I don’t think of all his accomplishments in politics, the workplace or his passion about the Poulsbo Historical Society, although I was always proud of the things he did,” Zimmer wrote in an email. “I thought of him as my younger brother whom I loved deeply. We spent hours in our growing up years and beyond talking ... Even recently with his struggle to breathe, he visited our home overnight so we could talk at length.”
She added, “His kindness, love and caring toward his own family and our extended family will be his greatest legacy.”
Dulce Henry, his daughter, added, “Even at the end, he worked so hard to stay here with my family and me. He worked to stay as healthy as he could, even working out at a gym several days a week, under medical supervision and with the help of oxygen tanks. His whole body had to work for each and every single strained breath the last few days of his life.”
Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Barbara; son, Nathanael (Julie) Rudolph; daughter, Dulce (Daniel) Henry; sisters, Dawn (Ted) Portmann and Carol (Charlie) Zimmer; and granddaughters, Liliana and Nora.