- About Us
Frank Henry Rutzke, Sr.December 17, 1946 ~ January 17, 2018 (age 71)
Frank Henry Rutzke Sr., much loved and always-right umpire, finished calling his last game Wednesday, January 17th.
Frank was born to Frank and Dorothea Rutzke in 1946 in Millport, New York. He was drafted into the USAF, and served from 1965 through 1969, attaining the rank of Sergeant. This was a pivotal time for the country and for Frank. He came to understand service to others and the importance of duty; serving as a military policeman, Frank became deeply patriotic and eventually came to believe he could also serve his country by vigilantly challenging injustice at every level.
Another result of Frank’s time in the service was an unfettered admiration of German Shepherds. Through the years he enjoyed mutual love and respect with many of these noble animals. He also loved his cat and secretly spoiled him, slipping him the food he couldn’t eat, and giving him rides on his walker in the last few weeks of his life.
While serving at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Frank met and then married Barbara Tilton. He spoke of how much he enjoyed her intelligence and her sense of humor. Together they brought into the world son Tony, whom they raised with love even after their divorce. Frank continued to consider Barb a friend, and worked for years with her father, Bob Tilton, who was also a lifelong mentor to Frank.
Frank later met Jacqueline Brazil in Great Falls. They married after a few years; he never missed an opportunity to tell the world how beautiful he thought she was. They laughed together often, and together they loved Tony and six more children: Jessica Halvorson, Shana Brazil, Buddy Rutzke, Chandra Rutzke, Michael Rutzke, Frankie Rutzke, and Ashley Keel. Frank parented in a straightforward manner that encouraged his children to challenge conventional thinking, stand up for their beliefs, and follow their passions. He was a stern father, but balanced it with a sense of humor and genuine pride in his children for their accomplishments. He later spoke of how proud he was that they became people of character and kindness.
Frank worked hard to provide for his family; after many years in sales, he decided on a late career change. He returned to college at Northern Montana College in Havre (Go Lights!), graduating cum laude before taking a position as a junior high science and math teacher in Thompson Falls. He taught there for sixteen years. While Frank was known as a hard ass teacher, former students called and wrote frequently to say how grateful they were that he held them to a standard and expected their best. They will likely remember him for his sarcasm, wisdom, and the fact that he would waive homework if the Yankees won.
After Frank retired from teaching, he and Jacqueline moved their empty nest to Hamilton. There he found more time for working as an umpire at all levels of baseball, his passion for many years. It was one of his profound pleasures to share this avocation with his youngest son, Frankie.
While he loved calling the shots, Frank never forgot the importance of service to the community. In Hamilton, Frank took part-time work teaching adjudicated youth at the DRC. Later, he worked at the Linda Massa Youth Home; he was recently nominated for the Compass Award for his work there. Frank belonged to, and did volunteer work with, Disabled American Veterans, Knights of Columbus, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and American Legion.
The most difficult aspect of Frank’s recurrence of cancer was losing the ability to do for others; only in his last weeks did he become accustomed to the grace of allowing us to do for him. After ejecting cancer once, and then putting up one hell of a fight the second time around, he was finding each extra inning of life’s game less fun than the last.
Surrounded by family that included his kids and wife, and their loved ones too, his prized German Shepherds, and his “felonious” therapy cat, Frank heard us talking about how great he looked behind the wheel of his Jaguar, promptly called the game, and left for other adventures in an easier place. We and all his fans like to think he will be welcomed there by son Michael, and all the other friends and family he’s missed seeing through the years.
He has been husband, father, grandpa, uncle, mentor, and friend. Please help us celebrate his life this coming Saturday, January 27th at Saint Francis Catholic Church in Hamilton. We will gather for a funeral Mass at 11 AM with reception to follow in the church hall. Those so inclined may join us at Riverview Cemetery at 1:30. In lieu of flowers, Frank asked that you consider a donation in his name to any reputable organization that supports the work and recovery of dogs in service to the military.