Rudolph (“Ruddie”) Christopher Claassen, also known as “Pop,” was born on May 11, 1916, to Rudolph R. and Allie H. Claassen in Newton. He married Velma Schmidt on August 22, 1940. They had been married for 70 years when Velma passed away in 2010.
Ruddie met the Lord on December 31, 2014, at the age of 98.
Ruddie was baptized and was a member of First Presbyterian Church until his marriage to Velma in 1940, when he joined First Mennonite Church in Newton. His faith and family were very important to him.
He attended the German School and Kellas Country School. He graduated from Newton High School in 1936. His favorite teacher was Mr. Karns, his vocational agriculture teacher, who later taught his two sons, Stan and Dwight.
Farming was Ruddie’s calling in life. He was born and raised on the Claassen farm east of Newton. He took over farming in 1939 and lived there until 1995 when Dwight and Connie moved into the home place. He loved caring for the land and his animals; he was especially fond of raking hay with his mules, Kate and Jenny. He would often say, “There’s nothing prettier than a clean alfalfa field,” and he loved a nice rain after the hay had been baled, picked up, and put away in the barn.
His love of the land, of farming, and of hard work was passed on through the generations; he spent extensive time with his grandsons on the farm in the summers. Ruddie eventually moved off the farm but he never stopped farming. He was overjoyed when Jed, one of Dwight’s sons, moved home in 2010 to carry on the tradition of farming the centennial family farm.
Although the farm kept him busy, he and Velma made time to travel the world. They traveled to Africa three times, to visit his son, Stan, and his family in Nigeria and Cameroon, as well as his sister Abbie and her family in the Congo. They also visited friends in Holland and toured Italy, and enjoyed taking bus tours around the United States.
Ruddie never knew a stranger. He would visit with anyone and he loved to talk about farming. He would offer anyone a job if they would work, and would eventually help raise two boys who came to work for him in the field, Ralph Bruner and John Caffrey. John remains an important part of the Claassen family to this day.
Until he stopped driving in 2009, Ruddie would often be found driving around the farm making sure the boys were keeping up with the farm work. Velma would always have dinner waiting for him when he got home, regardless of the hour.
After Velma passed away in 2010, his youngest daughter, Ginger, and her husband, John, invited him into their home. For the last four and a half years of his life, Ruddie was cared for and loved by Ginger and all of his family in Ginger’s home.
Every day when he woke up he would ask, “What’s it doing outside?” and “Wonder what the boys are doing today?” He always wished he could do something on the farm, be it get on the tractor and pick up bales from the field, load manure from the corral or drive the loader while his grandsons picked up rocks in the field. In his later years, his children and grandchildren would often drive him to the home place so he could check on the farm.
On December 27, 2014, forty-seven members of the Claassen family gathered at Ginger’s home where Ruddie gave a special Christmas present to each of his children and grandchildren and spent one final evening with everyone. He was in great spirits and the evening together is a wonderful, lasting memory.
On December 31, 2014, Ruddie peacefully met the Lord with his daughters Ginger, Eileen and granddaughter, Katie, by his side. He passed away in his own bed, covered with his own quilt, and surrounded by pictures of his wife and family.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Velma, siblings Emil, Abbie, and Wilhelmina, and one great-granddaughter Hayden Rose King.
Ruddie is survived by his five children: Stan and Jan Claassen of Newton, Eileen and Ken Umholtz of Burrton, Dwight and Connie Claassen of Newton, Rogene and Jerry Shank of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, and Ginger and John King of Moundridge. He is also survived by 12 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Friends may call at the funeral home Sunday (Jan. 4, 2015) between noon and 6pm, where the family will receive friends between 1 and 3.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 A.M., Monday (Jan. 5, 2015) at the First Mennonite Church in Newton. Interment will be in the Greenwood Cemetery in Newton at 2:30 P.M.
A memorial has been established with First Mennonite Church, contributions may be sent to Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, 120 E. Broadway, Newton, Ks. 67114.
Arrangements are by Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, Newton.