Submitted by Joan Levin
Oconto Falls - Many people have contributed much to the "quality of life" in Oconto County over the years. This is another of a series of biographical sketches of these people. Dorothea Rudolph is a true native of Oconto County, born and raised in Oconto Falls. Her parents were the late John and Emma (Wittkopf) Meyer. She graduated from Oconto Falls High school in 1925, and became a legal secretary for the late Adolph Lehner, a position she held for 14 years.
Marriage came in 1928 to Aaron Rudolph, who recently retired from his Main Street barber shop.
Following her years with A. P. Lehner, Dorothea was on the Ration Board during the Word war II, in charge of sugar rationing at the Falls and four other substations. After the war, she was secretary to the late Marshall Smith, and in charge of pulpwood purchases when the Falls paper & Power Company (now Scott Paper) was buying much of its wood from Canada and northern Michigan.
Her work there terminated with the arrival of daughter Jeanne, and two years later son David. But that brought on a new dimension of involvement, as the children's schooling involved Dorothea in P.T.A. as president; Band Parents, also as president: Brownies, Girl Scouts, Little League, and Babe Ruth Baseball, among others.
With David about to graduate from high school, and Jeanne already graduated and in college, Dorothea was requested by the Hospital Board and Administration to initiate a Medical Records Department at Community Memorial Hospital. As she had been a Trustee on the Hospital Board and its secretary since her appointment in 1939 by the then Mayor of Oconto Falls, E. J. Shellman, she was already familiar with many aspects of hospital functions. Following a short training period at Marinette General Hospital and a series of workshops and seminars in Atlanta, Colorado Springs, Ann Arbor, and Chicago, the department was put into operation in September of 1965. Dorothea has been director of the department until her retirement in May of this year. At that time she also retired from the Board of Directors, a 43-year tenure.
Dorothea Rudolph has seen many changes in the hospital since 1939 when it was housed in the Old Debridge residence on "Nob Hill" - Main Street. Some of the board members in 1939 were W. J. Munsert, Harry Bauman, Emil Behling, and Antone Metzler. There was no "Administrator's Office" in which to convene, and thus any available space was used, be it the kitchen after the dishes were done, the "operating room" (formerly the Delbridge den, complete with fireplace), or the basement laundry room (amid tubs of soaking, soiled linen or lines of wet laundry).
Grandma Best and Grandma Coppens provided delicious "home cooked" meals back then, and Dorothea recalls that the cook's salary for a month was $30,00.
The first hospital laboratory was started in an upstairs clothes closet. Drugs were kept in a locked cupboard in the pantry. The ward was divided with curtains and the lines holding them also provided a place to hang patient's clothing.
Dorothea recalls the apprehension she felt as her father was carried from surgery up the narrow stairway in a blanket to his room.
The move in 1954 to the "new" hospital, the former Woodman Hall and later American Legion Hall (now Parkside Manor) was a big step and great improvement. The board was organized to include various villages and townships which brought board membership to 16. The board was reorganized once more after a number of years.
The present hospital on south Main Street, built to provide more rooms and update services to the community, has been an interesting learning experience to Dorothea, and she feels that she was privileged to be a part of it through the years. In the process she has used her shorthand and typing skills to provide many reams of minutes, and spent many hours attending meetings.
Tragedy came to Dorothea and Aaron Rudolph in the death of daughter Jeanne and her husband John Knott in a plane crash three years ago. Dorothea and Aaron have four grandchildren with whom they like to keep in touch. Although they live quite a distance from Oconto Falls, they call and write, and recently had them visit for a week. Son David lives in Madison and comes north frequently.
Hobbies have been and still are an active part of Dorothea's life. Arts and crafts, sewing, flower arranging, and music. She was organist for Grace Lutheran Church for more than 20 years, and is presently organist for the Order of the Eastern Star, Chapter No. 266, a position she has filled for many years. It was for the Grand Chapter O.E.S. of Wisconsin, when she was an officer of that group, that she composed and published two marches which are used now throughout the United States. The Gilbert Publishing Co. of Cleveland, Ohio has an excerpt of the march in its music catalogue, and one number is in its fourth printing.
Dorothea is a member of the Oconto County Board of the American Cancer Society and Reach to Recovery Volunteer. She is a 56-year Life Member of the O.E.S. and Aaron is a 55-year Life Member Mason. They enjoy traveling and have taken a number of interesting bus trips throughout the country - but they feel it's always good to come back to Oconto Falls, to relatives and friends, their home and their flower garden.