The old lion is dead. On July 28, 2019, Rudy Kopp, age 92, ceased to be, at Wood’s Crossing, Brodhead, owing to metastatic lung cancer. He has passed on, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible. He is an ex person.
Rudy was born on March 2, 1927 to Swiss immigrants in a place called Rat Hollow, which is in western Green County, Wisconsin. He liked to say that if a man didn’t do any more in life than get out of Rat Hollow, he could consider himself a success. Rudy got out of Rat Hollow and did so much more.
Rudy operated a dairy farm near Footville from 1958 until 1992 when he retired and moved to town. Rudy could start a fire with a jug of cold water, walk on his hands, pilot a plane (and a glider), identify constellations in the night sky, find four leaf clovers, ride a unicycle, do trick shooting with mirrors, and butcher a hog. He started tug of war teams. The men’s team was called Rudy’s Boys. Rudy’s Girls was formed a bit later. Rudy gave them nothing more than his name and a fierce competitive spirit. His teams went on to win many national championships and were featured in Sports Illustrated. Rudy could juggle, husk corn by hand, bend 60 penny nails, survive gas gangrene, cane chairs, quote philosophers, and recite in order the names of hundreds of roads throughout southern Wisconsin. He loved to give rides in his 1928 Packard. He did not play the harp. A series of interviews where Rudy talks about his long and interesting life may be found on YouTube.
Rudy had insatiable curiosity, and he loved to travel. After he retired from farming, he drove hundreds of thousands of miles in a series of Chrysler minivans (license plate CYGNUS). Sometimes his wife and daughter accompanied him. Sometimes his friends Bob Buehl or Ken Viken came along. And sometimes he went alone. He enjoyed every turn of the wheel and would often say, “We saw many wonderful things today.” He also loved air travel and was ready to go anywhere at the drop of a hat. His many journeys allowed him to sit behind the wheel of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose; walk in the footsteps of Socrates and Aristotle in Athens; ride a camel in Morocco; see Victoria Falls; and, at age 90, set foot on Cape Horn.
Rudy refused to join any club that would have him as a member, but he was proud of his lifelong affiliation with the Ministry of Silly Walks, and he was also a pastafarian. His philosophy of life was to never void where prohibited and always mind the gap. Rudy’s only regret in life is that he did not live long enough to see Donald Trump turned out of office. Rudy would encourage all eligible voters to educate themselves about who is on the ballot and what they stand for and vote in every single election.
Rudy is survived by his daughter, Nancy Kopp, of Madison, who inherited his wacky sense of humor (For those who are wondering how much money Rudy left, Nancy reports that he left it all.) He is also survived by his siblings, Martha Scherer, Ruth Ruf, and Fritz Kopp, all of Monroe. Rudy was preceded in death by his wife, Wanda, in 2007, and by his siblings Louis Kopp, Verena Graber, and Hedy Wuethrich. There will be no memorial service. Rudy did not believe in such things while he was alive, and there is no indication that his opinion has changed just because he is dead. Friends (and enemies, in the unlikely event there are any) may gather for a celebration of Rudy’s life at the American Legion in Orfordville on Sunday, August 18, 2019 from 12 noon to 5 p.m. A lunch will be served, and a short program will be held at 2:00 p.m. This is intended to be an upbeat occasion with a party atmosphere. Morose people will be placed in the sleeper hold or the Indian leg lock.
Many thanks to Dr. Briana Jelenc and her nurse Kathy, Dr. Michael Huie, Heartland Hospice, and the staff at Wood’s Crossing for their compassionate care. Hundreds of people came to visit Rudy in his last months to tell him what a positive impact he’d had on their lives. He was deeply touched and humbled by their kind words. Many people also reached out to offer Nancy support. She would especially like to thank the entire tug of war community, the Eckard-Lee family, Bill and Barbara Sather, Sue Gray, Cousin Jimmy Shumway, and her real cousins Diana (Daphne) Rhoads and Paul Graber for all of their help on Rudy’s last journey.
Rudy believed that outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend, and inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. In lieu of flowers (PLEASE DO NOT SEND FLOWERS. THEY ARE A WASTE OF MONEY AND WILL PROBABLY MAKE NANCY SNEEZE), memorials to the Orfordville Public Library are suggested. Rudy also supported the Orfordville and Footville fire departments and the Kelch Aviation Museum in Brodhead, Wisconsin. Rudy’s more progressive friends may consider a donation to Planned Parenthood or the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Or perhaps consider engaging in random acts of kindness while recalling your favorite memory of Rudy. He would find that just too too amusing. The Newcomer-Silverthorn Chapel on the Hill, Orfordville is assisting the family.