Rudolf J. Weyrauch, age 91, died peacefully in his home on April 9, 2022 with his wife of 67 years Alice by his side. He was born in Aachen, Germany on October 12, 1930 to Rudolf and Fredrike Weyrauch. At an early age, his father would take him on his bicycle to his workplace in the city, buying little Rudi treats to eat and visiting the family gardens. Rudi heard family frequently speak in opposition to the Nazis. When Rudi was four years old, Hitler rose to power in Germany. Hitler would often tour Aachen with his car and entourage, which Rudi would witness and even captured once via photograph. Rudi was a Hitler youth as required by the Nazi regime. However, no pictures exist of him in uniform due to his family’s opposition to the Nazi party. Fortunately, Rudi made some good friends in school who were also opposed to the Nazis. When they were surely alone, they would secretly speak freely of their views.
Rudi started a diary when he was 10, which begins with his experiences avoiding Nazi persecution and enduring the terrors of World War II. In one of his early entries he recalls sirens going off as he played in the street, and having to evade airplanes raining down bullets. Another entry chronicles his escape by train from his home city, which was being bombed. The train suddenly stopped, and they had to run. Little Rudi froze, with shooting all around him, and was saved by a woman who pulled him to safety. The boy experienced countless war experiences too horrific to share here.
By 1945, the war was over. 15-year-old Rudi cleaned rubble off the streets on bicycle, occasionaly finding live bombs. He rejoiced with family and friends that Hitler was dead. Food became scarce and Germany’s “hunger years” dragged along with harsh winters in 1946-47. Rudolf never forgot the hunger years and hoarded food until the end of his life. Hungry and cold, Rudi and his friends nonetheless became active in the earliest post-war democracy youth organization in which they enjoyed activities like hiking and social events. For the first time in their lives, they spent hours talking freely about democracy and current events. At age 18, Rudolf joined the official political party, the SPD. The membership book he carried to the United States in 1968 shows stamps of his payments of annual membership dues since 1949.
In his early 20’s, he volunteered as leader at a camp for younger children. They would hike, and camp, play games and have fun. There Rudi met a new and emerging leader six years younger, Alice Zeretzke (an immigrant and war refugee from Poland), whom he married - both in lederhosen - in 1955. He was an electrician at the time, and in addition to his youth groups, political activism, he led an active social life in the Aachen taverns with many good friends. During his and Alice’s honeymoon in Paris, they saw many street artists whom Rudi admired. After seeing a poor but skilled artist working on a bridge over the Seine River, Alice suggested “you could paint like that.” He penciled a sketch of the artist on the river. Later, it became his first of over 100 paintings and drawings with a variety of media and themes.
Rudolf J. Weyrauch became a social worker in 1960, after 4 years of study. He was a respected court advocate for young people, and later, he also became a national leader of recreational and educational programs for youth and classes for working people in West Germany. He was a great friend and mentor to hundreds of young people.
Rudolf and his wife Alice raised three children, Denise, Meike, and Martin, with whom they emigrated to the United States in 1968. They first lived in the Bronx, New York, and moved to Middleburgh, New York in 1971, where Alice’s parents Cecile and Erwin had established a home on 80 acres. Rudolf - the social worker, activist, thinker, and writer - became a home builder. The family was joined by neighbors to raise a home for the new Americans, using mostly pre-used materials such as great beams from nearby barns. Great celebrations and parties followed and continued for many years at that home and property. Family and friends from Europe also joined their lives and cousins Wiktor Kluzniak, Terry Kluzniak, and Sabine Alde became members of the family on East Hill. Once their children became adults and independent, Rudi and Alice took up gardening, local bicycling, and hiking in the New York Catskills. They also traveled across the U.S. as well as Europe, including returning to Germany to visit old friends and family.
Alice and Rudi were separated for 7 years, when Alice moved to her daughter Meike due to health reasons, during which time Alice and Rudi spoke on the telephone every day. Finally, he was convinced to also move to Castle Rock, Washington to reunite with Alice in 2018. He was then cared for by daughter Meike, her husband Kris Orth, and wife Alice. He continued to keep up on current events, vote, and promote democracy. He loved red roses, fresh tomatoes, cookies, and semi-sweet Hershey’s chocolate. He enjoyed visits and pictures from his grandchildren - brothers Kris and Dana Staples-Weyrauch, and Daniela Ribbecke - as well as Daniela’s children Sam and Violet. In the twilight of his years, he often said “love is life,” and inquired about his family.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the family home in Castle Rock, Washington on June 18 at 11 AM PST. Please email grandson Dana at RJW.Memorial22@gmail.com to let us know that you would like to join in person or via social media.