Donald Eugene Rudolph passed during the afternoon of March 18, 2020 at the Liberty Medical
Care Center following a short stay. He was 92. Donald was born on February 20, 1928 at the Olga Ness
Hospital in Chester. He was the 4th of 5 children born to Ray S. Rudolph and Hazel V. Ray. He spent
his early life on their farm north of Joplin, attending the Juanita Country School and then graduating in
1946 from Joplin High School. He was so proud to tell everyone that his first-grade teacher celebrated
her l08th birthday in November of 2019 and he helped her celebrate, as he was able to do for the last
Donald loved playing basketball in high school and mentioned several times that was the only reason he
went! (He did admit later that his mother really wanted him to graduate from high school, which he
did.) He finished a half year early and would have been the valedictorian if he had stayed in school until
the end of the year, but he started farming. He and his school mates wanted to play football and track,
but it was during WW2 and it wasn't offered. He would have been good at track because he could run
and jump a 4-wire fence with no problem!
Donald and his brother, Carroll, purchased the Jennie Hughes place 28 miles north of Joplin in 1946.
Times were tough and the farm was in poor shape with lots of weeds. They hauled their crop to town to
sell the first year in a pickup truck.... Not enough to make their payment that year, or even the interest.
Mrs. Hughes took a note for the interest and it ended up they paid for the farm in 12 years!! They later
purchased a farm near Hogeland, MT and a small place in the Milk River Valley east of Chinook. They
bought 4 registered Angus heifers in 1958. This was the start of the Rudolph Brothers Registered Angus
herd, a successful venture for many years. Donald liked working with the cattle and, although this
started out as a "hobby" it soon became the focal point of his life. The cow herd grew to 150 cows. The
yearling bulls were sold each spring for 20 years, and the herd was dispersed in 1987 when Carroll
wanted to retire. In the early years the yearling bulls were sold private treaty but later they held their
own production sale at auction at the Chinook ranch.
During the early years of his farming operation, Donald would occasionally go to the Harrison home for
dinner (the noon meal when you live on a farm!) since his land and Norris' land joined. As time went on
he visited their home more as their daughter, Shirley, was growing up! They became engaged in 1956
and were married on December 8, 1957. To this union were born 3 little girls: Tammy, Twila, and
Wanda, who added a new dimension to his life. He helped them as they grew with 4-H projects, taught
them to help around the farm, attended their basketball games, Sunday School programs, school events,
After the cow herd was sold, Donald and Shirley decided to try camping and bought a 5th wheel trailer.
Later Donald wanted a motorhome and they started going to Arizona during the winter. They did
this from 1993 until 2010 enjoying the nicer weather, new experiences and making lots of new friends.
They always enjoyed coming home to Montana each spring and loved seeing the "Welcome to
Montana" sign at the Idaho/Montana border. They were also members of Milk River Campers, a local
camping group that traveled to different areas around our state and beyond and enjoyed this life for
almost 20 years. A group of 5 couples took their RV's on a trip to Alaska leaving the end of May in 1998.
They were gone for 6 weeks and 6600 miles! Donald enjoyed the trip but only wanted to drive it once.
In 1981, the grandchildren began to arrive. They were blessed with 4 grandsons, Michael, Neal, Reece,
and Bradley Duncan. Grandpa helped the boys with their woodworking projects for 4-H, planted fish in
the reservoir so they could fish, etc. He took the motorhome to Havre for the fair so they had someplace
Donald had time to do some woodworking after the cows were sold. He bought his equipment and
made some beautiful projects. He was especially proud of the corner china cabinet he made, as well as
numerous wooden clocks, belt buckles, earrings, jewelry boxes, light boxes, magazine racks, grandfather
clocks, etc. Some items he sold but most he gave to family and friends.
How do you summarize a full life of 92 years in condensed form? There are so many happy memories,
new events, etc. As his life was winding down, he was eagerly awaiting the birth of his twin great
grandsons. They arrived in February and he enjoyed showing the nurses pictures of the babies. He
never got to see them in this life but loved all his great grandchildren.
Donald is survived by his wife of 62 years, Shirley; daughters, Tammy (Bruce), Twila (Rick), and Wanda;
his grandsons, Michael (Katie) and their children, Mikalie, Hadlie, Whitlie, Briggs, and Jaynie, Neal, Reece
(Ashley) and their children, Savannah, Jonathan, and Samuel, Bradley (Stormy) and her daughters, Bailey
and Karsyn; sisters-in-law, Mary Rudolph, Jean Harrison, Jean Stone, Nancy Harrison, and Elaine Hodges;
brother-in-law, Lyle Harrison; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents; siblings, Thelma (Glenn) LaValley, Carroll,(Kathern),Harley and baby sister, Marilyn Joy; brothers-in-law, Donald and Robert Harrison, and Willis Hodges; and in-laws, Norris and Opal Harrison.
A memorial service will be held July 24, 2020 at the Chester City Park. Burial of ashes will follow at the
Joplin Cemetery. Those attending the memorial are asked to please bring their own lawn chairs if
possible and follow social distancing guidelines.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Donald E. Rudolph, please visit our floral store.