Jerry Rutledge always felt that actions spoke louder than words. It motivated his collection of silent films and unsung composers, his travels around the globe, his years of service to organizations in his beloved hometown of Waseca, Minn., and his efforts on behalf of his clients during his nearly 50-year career as an insurance-company executive.
Rutledge, who moved from Waseca to Cassville, Wisc., in 2015, died March 7 after a lengthy battle with abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Born and raised in Waseca, Jerry joined Waseca Mutual Insurance Co. fresh out of the University of Minnesota in 1958; he was president of the company just four years later, and ran the business – which became part of Austin Mutual Insurance Co. – until 1998, staying active as a director at Farmers Union Cooperative Insurance Co. of Nebraska until he fully retired in 2007. Throughout his career, he was dedicated to helping his neighbors and making Waseca a better, kinder and more-cultured place.
Professionally, he gave back to the industry by participating in organizations -- particularly those dedicated to home-state issues -- like the Minnesota Insurance Federation, the Minnesota Association of Mutual Windstorm Insurance Cos., and the StateWide Reinsurance Underwriters, among many others.
In Waseca, Jerry seldom missed a chance to get involved, volunteering with too many community groups and serving too many boards to list. The organizations for which he served as president or chairman include the Waseca Players, Waseca Sleigh & Cutter Festival Association, Waseca Area Memorial Hospital, Waseca Arts Council, Waseca Community Foundation, Region Nine Arts Council, Waseca County Historical Society, Estes Performance Inc. of Estes Park, Colo., and the Rotary Club of Waseca. He established and endowed the Rutledge Family Fund for the Waseca Area Foundation, and the Jerry and Linda Rutledge Heritage Fund for the Waseca County Historical Society. In 2012, the Waseca Area Chamber of Commerce honored him with the Don Eustice Lifetime Community Service Award.
Jerry’s lifelong love for movies started in Waseca too, in the 1940s at the old State Theater. His movie collection includes nearly 800 titles from silent films of the 1900s to the first talkies in the Roaring 20s, to his collection of John Wayne pictures spanning the 1940s to the late ‘60s. He attributed his accompanying passion for music to his mother, who played piano for him and bought him classical music records; his collection has over 18,000 pieces, but he reserved his greatest excitement for “unsung composers,” typically new and/or unknown artists whose works are seldom recorded. He traded these musical treasures around the world with others afflicted with the same interest, with each transaction bringing him more friends as well as more music.
While Jerry cherished Waseca, he was bitten early by the travel bug, starting with family train trips with his parents, and annual summer vacations to the family cabin in Estes Park, Colo., a place he visited annually – starting at six months old -- for his entire life. He went everywhere he wanted to go in the world, whether it was fishing in Argentina, behind the Iron Curtain to the former Czechoslovakia to meet a pen pal who also loved obscure composers, to the symphony in Berlin, the theatre in London, or simply visiting New Zealand and Taormina, Sicily, the two places he couldn’t pick between as his “favorite destination.”
Jerry Rutledge was born Jan. 20, 1936 in Waseca, the only child of Lyle and Alberta Rutledge. He was pre-deceased by Carol Greer Rutledge, to whom he was married for nearly 50 years; he is survived by their children, Lisa and Michael Campbell of Fountain, Colo., Thomas Scott and Elena Rutledge of Wildomar, Calif., and Rebecca and Jeffrey Stevens of Olathe, Kan., and by grandchildren Christopher, Sarah and Madeline Stevens, Rachel and Joshua Rutledge, and Brittany and Casey Campbell.
He also is survived by his wife, Linda Brinkman Rutledge -- who rekindled his zest for life and laughter - as well as by her children: Todd and Suzanne Brinkman of Cassville, Wisc., Jason Brinkman and his fiancée Janee Perez of Freeport, Ill., and Heather and Dan Mabini of Waukesha, Wisc., and their children Payton, Kyran, Irelyn, Paige, Khiana Piper and newborn Jack Brinkman, and Emma and Lexi Mabini.
Visiting hours with the family will be held from 4 – 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 14 at Dennis Funeral and Cremation Service in Waseca, with funeral services Friday, March 15 at 11 a.m. at Faith United Methodist Church, followed immediately by a celebration of Jerry’s life at Waseca Lakeside Club, 37160 Clear Lake Drive in Waseca. Interment next to his parents and Carol at Woodville Cemetery will be private.
Jerry would have felt flowers were wasted on him, so in lieu of flowers, please support the Waseca Area Foundation – Rutledge Family Fund, 501 E. Elm Ave., Waseca, MN 56093, online at https://www.spmcf.org/waseca-area-foundation.