National Assisted Living Week: World traveler stays on the go at Golden OaksIf you stop in to visit Genevieve Rutka, you’re in for a real trip.
By: Thomas Vaughn, Duluth Budgeteer News
If you stop in to visit Genevieve Rutka, you’re in for a real trip.
“Her travels are extensive. I know she’s been all over Europe,” said Robin Tellor, a friend of 35 years who stops in to visit Rutka frequently.
A retired executive secretary who served the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Rutka now lives at Golden Oaks Advanced Assisted Living Plus in Hermantown.
Rutka has visited Spain, Germany, France and several other countries.
“Gen’s mind is so keen and she remembers everything. She’s so meticulous that it makes visits a very pleasurable experience,” said Dennis Hughes, another longtime friend who worked for the postal service with Rutka’s husband Harold, who died in March of last year. “It’s been very rewarding for me and for my wife Leslie to come and visit. I’ve learned a great deal of history, more so than I ever knew before.”
Rutka’s travel memories come from her years taking trips with Harold. Harold had served as a turret gunner on bombing missions over Nazi Germany during World War II. The Rutkas became friends with many fellow service personnel during that time. After the war, the couple worked together, organizing over 25 reunions of the 8th Air Force bomb group around the world.
Rutka was born in Vienna, Austria. Her parents immigrated to Duluth to work in a new hotel that had opened downtown. Later, her parents opened People’s Market, located on First Street. She graduated from Denfeld High School and Duluth Business University.
As an office administrator with the 148th, her military employers soon recognized her attention to detail. Rutka built a career with the group, working in the SAGE center, a building that housed computers that processed data from radar during the height of the Cold War. The name “SAGE” was derived from “Semi-Automatic Ground Environment.” The building still stands on Miller Trunk Highway near the airport, and is now the site the Natural Resources Research Institute. Rutka retired in 1972.
“My shorthand skills were 100 percent,” Rutka said. “So, I got called in to meetings all the time.”
Rutka does not need to use her shorthand skills at Golden Oaks now, but she still comes to meetings.
Susie Gimberlin, activities assistant at Golden Oaks, said that she, like Hughes, has learned a lot from Rutka about what it meant to be an American in a previous generation, as they work together at the various baking, painting or crafting events offered at the residence.
“Gen is a remarkable woman for what she has accomplished in traveling,” Gimberlin said. “I mean, she tells us about all the places she’s been to. It’s a learning experience for those of us on the staff here. We hear how things happened years ago, what she and other Americans had to live through during the Depression and war years. Gen is proud to be an American. She believed in our country during those difficult times in the past.”
“She was very patriotic, very dedicated to the military and to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church,” Tellor said, adding that her move to Golden Oaks has been beneficial for her during these years.
Rutka agrees. “The people are very nice here and the service is wonderful,” she said. “They like working with me.”
“She enjoys the activities here so much and how the staff treats her — and how she treats the staff,” added Hughes.
“She’s just blossomed, it’s wonderful,” Tellor said in reference to how organized physical activity has helped Rutka keep herself healthy. “She is just happy, very happy now.”