John Rudolph, the successful entrepreneur, community leader and family man who led Rudolph Foods Corp. from making pork rinds to the global snack leader that it is today, died Tuesday after a battle with health issues. He was 88.
Rudolph, as most affectionately referred to him, passed peacefully, surrounded by his family in his Lima, Ohio, farmhouse.
Born near Toledo on Sept. 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 technical sergeant in Germany during World War II. He was a fan of basketball, playing in both high school and college. In 1948, Rudolph graduated from Bowling Green University with a B.A. in business management and married his college sweetheart Mary Miller, later settling in Lima.
Launching Rudolph Foods in 1955, 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). 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, Economic Development, Visitors Bureau and the City Club). He talked fondly of Lima often saying, “I love this town.”
Known for having a passion for everything “big and small,” Rudolph loved life. He adored his loving wife of 64 years, Mary, who survives him; four children, Kathy Rudolph, Susie Cornell, Jim Rudolph and Rich (Jan) Rudolph, all of Lima; a daughter-in-law, Nancy Rudolph of Lima; eight grandchildren, Elizabeth (David) Entinghe, Caroline Rudolph, Johnny Rudolph, John Cornell, Sarah Cornell, Ryan Malooly, Skyler Malooly and Zion Rudolph; four siblings, Philip Rudolph, Mary Oberdick, Helyn (Chuck) Kurfess and Kathleen (Ron) Holzman, all of Toledo; and two sisters-in-law, Marilyn Rudolph and Nancy Rudolph, both of Toledo.
He was preceded in death by a son, Philip Rudolph; two brothers, Fritz Rudolph and Kermit Rudolph; a sister-in-law, Iris Rudolph; and a brother-in-law, Bob Oberdick.
Well regarded as a catalyst for change and a natural-born leader, 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.
Visitation will be from 2 -4 and 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 19, at Chiles-Laman Funeral & Cremation Services, Shawnee Chapel; and one hour prior to the services Saturday at the church. A service of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 20, at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church with the Rev. Michael Hughes, Pastor Tom Lentz and Pastor David Buchenroth officiating. Immediately following, he will be laid to rest in Bluelick Cemetery.
In Rudolph’s memory, donations may be made to the Lima YMCA or St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. For online condolences, visit www.chiles-lamanfh.com.