Joan MacDonald Rudberg

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Joan MacDonald Rudberg went into the arms of God on April 1, 2009, at the Hospice of Arizona in Sun City West, Ariz. She was peaceful throughout, as lovely a lady as could ever be.

Joan Lee MacDonald was born in Baltimore, Md., on Sept. 27, 1934, the first daughter of Earl and Virginia Shaneybrook MacDonald. Her formative years were spent on the family farm in Baltimore County, years that would define the singular character of this extraordinary lady.

For her first 11 years she was the special and only little girl of the family, surrounded by the men of the farm - her father, grandfather and uncles. She didn’t have to share attention with her younger sisters, Marsha and Pat, for some time. Yes, she was one little girl thoroughly spoiled by the men around her, but she learned the ethics of those hard-working, family-loving men. There were three big lessons she talked about for the rest of her life: you don't cry when you skin your knee, you don't whine to get your way and you don't tattle when the boys color outside the lines. Otherwise, you don't get to ride on top of the hay wagon on the next great adventure. Be real troublesome and you might get left behind. So she grew up naturally comfortable around men and loved their company her entire life.

She learned that you stand by your friends and they stand by you. Those that don't aren't worth spending time on. If that sounds harsh, it really isn't. It is the code of a friend that will stay with you and walk through the fires of hell at your side.

Joan went through Catholic girls’ schools and pulled all the tricks that so frustrate the nuns, and a few they never caught on to. Still, Catholic schools have great lessons for the paradigm of life. Honesty; responsibility for your own actions; fairness for others when it is within your power to be fair; and one of the greatest concepts of a good life: “The Good of the Order," the denial of personal pleasure to improve the lot those in your fold. It would emerge again when she became executive director of United Way in Gallatin County.

Joan graduated from Mt. St Agnes School in 1952 and went to work for AT&T, pursuing a career that lasted 30 years, retiring as a training manager in New York City. The self-reliance ethic developed in childhood was evident throughout. She is an original feminist, holding strongly to the personal responsibility and fairness lessons learned on the farm, and earned a reputation as a manager that would go to bat for employees she thought were not getting just treatment. Not surprisingly, she had little regard for those who called themselves feminists, yet would exploit the law to get their way.

Joan was previously married to Leroy Albert Shrader. They had three children together: Mark Shrader of Denver, Colo., Dean Shrader of Santa Fe, N.M., and Chynna Hamilton of Rexford. Her living grandchildren are Dustin Tracey, Amanda Shrader, Tyler Shrader; and one outstanding great-grandchild, Gavin Tracey, whom Joan absolutely adored and who brought beauty to her life in her final days.

Joan retired from AT&T in 1983 and moved to Montana to be near her children and grandchildren. Retirement wasn't an entirely suitable activity. She learned to ski at age 50, of course learning the art from the good old boys at Bridger Bowl. Soon she was on the Belgrade City Council, led the revitalization of the New Horizons Singles Group and became United Way executive director.

In 1987, Joan and Don met and began the wonderful love affair that would last for the rest of their lives. They were married on Sept. 15, 1990, a day that fell just after Don's birthday and before hers. She wanted it to be published that he was a year older (13 days is the real truth). He finally told her that it's the date of the license issuance that counts.

In 1995, Joan retired as executive director of United Way. Retirement didn’t work this time either. She decided she had seen enough of the existing City Commission actions, so she ran for a spot and was elected. She had a special dislike for heavy-handed government intervention in private affairs, believing in public health, safety and welfare as government’s primary responsibilities. Everything else had to make its case. Joan was the most dedicated supporter of law enforcement and the fire department that most can remember. She had many accomplishments, such as pushing through a moratorium on casinos in the entryway corridors of Bozeman, championing construction as a job creator and thumping the tub for a traffic light at 19th and Durston to protect school children.

She didn't run for re-election to the City Commission in 1999, saying that every year you made 25 percent of the public mad, so that at the end of a term, pretty much everyone was irate with you. I assured her that she had done much better - she had twisted the tails of the same 25 percent every year. But we concurred we had shared enough of this magnificent lady for the public benefit, and, only half teasingly, I said that if she ran again, I would campaign against her. The deal was sealed with no regrets.

In 2002, she suffered the tragic loss of two wonderful grandsons, Scott Tracey of Bozeman and Jesse James Shrader of Denver, both at the hands of drunk drivers. The entire family dearly misses Scott and Jesse, and Joan is with them now, trying to curb their mischievous behavior. This could prove difficult.

Also in 2002, Joan and Don bought a house in Sun City Grand, Ariz., and began spending winters in the Southwest, to enjoy one another and a gin and tonic at the end of the day. Still, Joan was irrepressible. An outspoken conservative, she worked in Republican politics for many years. And when in Bozeman, she got into talk radio, which she loved passionately. She did her show standing up, believing that if you sat down, some of the sharpness was lost. Her laugh was recognized instantly in the valley. It was wonderfully common to have people say, "I don't know you personally, but I hear your laugh and know who you are. You're Joan Rudberg. Thanks for speaking out." Thanks to all of you who told her that. You knew how to make her day.

It was a joy and privilege to be her husband, her soul mate, to delight in her freedom to do the things of her life, to love her, and to feel so special because she loved me. I am so sad, but, the words of a song had it right…”And now, I’m glad I didn’t know, The way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance - I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance.”

Joan leaves behind Don, her husband of 19 years; and two treasured sisters, Marsha MacDonald of Frederick, Md., and Pat (Vince) Serio of Hedgesville, W.Va. She is survived by her sons, Mark H. Shrader (Bernie) of Denver, Dean L. Shrader (Theresa) of Santa Fe, N.M.; and daughter, Chynna Hamilton of Eureka; two grandsons, Dustin Tracey of Rexford, and Tyler Shrader of Santa Fe; and granddaughter, Amanda Shrader of Denver. Her cherished great-grandson, Gavin Tracey of Rexford, also survives her. Don’s children, Anita Rudberg of Bozeman and Steve Rudberg of Denver, were also very special to her.

She is survived by more friends than can be named. However, Nancy Guzzo of West Grove, Pa., deserves singular mention. They have been faithful friends since they were 5 years old. It would be remiss not to mention her dear and lifelong friend, Joan Thompson of Baltimore. And throughout the years in Bozeman, there have been two very special, loving and devoted friends, Tammy Hall and Karen Pfaehler, who came to see Joan in the final days and brought her comfort. Thick as thieves from Montana to Mexico and in between, those three have been. Sisters to the end. And beyond.

A memorial service for Joan is scheduled for Saturday, April 25, at 11 a.m. at Dahl Funeral Chapel in Bozeman.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the American Cancer Society, or to Hospice of Arizona, 19702 N. Routzahn Way, Sun City West, AZ 85375.

So concludes the final chapter in a story of love, of respect, of devotion, of admiration, of service to others. Husbands and wives, in ways great and small, in times passionate or calm, tell each other of your love, your devotion, your respect. I have told you of ours.

Condolences and memories may be sent to the family at
Funeral Home
Dahl Funeral Chapel
300 Highland Boulevard
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 586-5298
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Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Apr. 22, 2009
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