Mary Elizabeth Rudolph was born at home to Arthur and Minerva Stipp on April 27, 1931. The family lived south of Joplin in the area called Black Coulee. Mary was the youngest of five daughters. Recalling early memories from living in the coulee always brought a smile to Mary’s face. She remembered being spoiled by a bachelor neighbor, enthralled with her pretty teacher’s many pairs of shoes, and being her father’s sidekick whenever possible.
In 1940, nine-year-old Mary, one sister, and their parents moved to a farm in Arkansas. In 1944, Mary, who was now a teenager, along with her mother, followed her father to Portland. Arthur had moved to the coast to work in the shipyards as a pipe fitter. Their trip west was an adventure for Mary. They rode the train to Portland via Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Chester. Mary well remembered the dozens of handsome, young men in military uniforms filling the train. Upon arriving in Portland, the little family lived in a housing development built especially for the shipyard workers in Vanport City.
In 1946, the family returned to Chester. Mary attended Chester High School. She graduated in 1949 and went on to attend Kinman Business School in Spokane. Upon successfully completing her secretarial courses, Mary, again, returned to Chester. She was employed at the Liberty County Courthouse.
It was in the courthouse that Mary first noticed a young man from the Joplin area. After the gentleman left the building, Mary and a co-worker snooped through files to discover the name, age, and marital status of the unsuspecting, handsome man. From that point, Mary’s friends arranged for “chance” meetings for Mary and Harley ~ first at a Christmas party in December 1952, and later at a movie. By spring, the young couple didn’t need the help of friends; they were spending quite a bit of time together. It was in April, they traveled to the Havre hospital to meet Harley’s new baby niece. While driving home, Harley stopped the vehicle at the Sweetgrass Hills historical point east of Chester and proposed. The two were married June 14, 1953, at Our Savior's Lutheran Church. Mary worked alongside Harley as they built their home, farmed, and raised three children north of Joplin.
Mary enjoyed various hobbies. She kept busy with quilting, playing cards, working puzzles, and reading. During the summer months, she and Harley went camping with the Milk River Campers. She worked with church friends to create hundreds of quilts to be donated to people in need. She also made quilts for her family members. For her crazy quilts, Mary would use scraps of material that most people would toss in the trash. She had one quilt left to make for a granddaughter. Mary sewed until she could no longer sit at the sewing machine. With the help of family and friends, the beautiful quilt was completed. Her joy was evident when she admired the finished project.
In 1989, Harley and Mary retired and moved from the farm to their new home in Chester. They became active in the church, enjoyed their time at the senior center, and were involved in community activities. In 2005, Mary and Harley again moved. This time, they rented an apartment in the Sweetgrass Retirement Lodge. As they both enjoyed visiting friends, living in the lodge was a pleasure. For several winters during these years, Mary and Harley lived the “snowbird” lifestyle. Arizona became their winter home which offered endless opportunities to meet new people and tour throughout the Grand Canyon State.
Mary’s recent big adventure was last August. She joined Steve and Connie on a road trip to Buffalo, New York to attend her granddaughter’s wedding. They were able to stop at various tourist attractions that Mary was hoping to visit. Watching out the window, throughout the 4000-mile trip, gave Mary great joy.
In 2020, Mary was awarded the title of “Liberty County Senior Citizen of the Year”. This honor was presented to her right before her surgery for pancreatic surgery. The following year, sitting in a classic car, Mary happily waved to everyone along the All-School parade route.
Being a member of Our Savior's Lutheran Church was especially important to Mary. Attending weekly services was a priority. She delighted in being a greeter for the Sunday worship service. Not only did she appreciate the service, but she looked forward to visiting with everyone at coffee hour.
Never to shy away from an adventure, her last and greatest adventure was Wednesday, January 26, 2022, as she journeyed to heaven ~ a journey she was joyfully anticipating.
Mary was preceded by Harley Ray Rudolph, her husband of sixty years and an infant daughter, Cynthia Ann. She is survived by sons, Kent (Patty), Kyle (Donna) and daughter, Connie. Jeremy, David (Dawn), Tammy, Becky, Lauren (Jonathan) and Logan were fortunate to call her grandma. Great grandma Mary was blessed with great grandchildren, Kasey, McKyla, Miley, Kohlton, Zach, Abby, Ely, Jayce, and Olivia. Mary considered everyone a friend including two very special people, great nephew, Steven Cameron and neighbor, Paula Childers.
To honor Mary, a service, with luncheon to follow, will be held at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Chester at 11:00, Tuesday, February 1. Mary will be laid to rest next to Harley and Cynthia in the Joplin Cemetery.
In memory of Mary, memorials may be given to Our Savior's Lutheran Church (in which she was married and eulogized), the Great Falls Rescue Mission, or charity of choice.