Bluebird houses give wings to grieving hearts

By: 
Andrea Nelson

A bluebird house may be just a few pieces of wood nailed together and mounted on a post, but it’s become much more than that to one man, his family and the thousands who have been touched by their story.

Ron Rudolph’s story began the day he met his future wife, Pat, at a party more than 35 years ago. They met on a blind date, were introduced to each other by friends and “the rest is history,” he said. 

The “rest” resulted in many years of love and marriage, raising three children, having a home in Corcoran Minnesota and planning a future full of adventures throughout the rest of their lives together. It included her beating breast cancer 2004, him building a woodworking shop at her urging, and spending lots of their retirement years with their children and eight grandchildren in New Prague, Richfield and Florida.

That all changed Fourth of July 2016 when Pat became dizzy and their yearly vacation to Duluth had to be cut short because she did not feel well. A subsequent trip to the doctor revealed that Pat had a terminal brain tumor.  

On January 4, Pat passed away with her family beside her at Our Lady of Peace Home in St. Paul.

After the funeral and after everybody had gone home, Ron returned to his home, alone and grieving.

“Everybody left,” he said. “All of a sudden you realize how it’s going to be. I felt all alone in this big house.”

A night of restlessness, longing for his wife and an overwhelming sense of “What next?,” nudged him to that very workshop that Pat so lovingly encouraged him to have.

Once out there he looked around at all the things in the workshop and one item on the wall caught his eye – the bluebird house he built several years prior.

“I looked around, found wood pieces, cut them out and gathered the material to build more houses and started building,” Rudolph said. “I had to do something to keep my hands busy, and my mind busy too.” 

He made nearly a dozen bluebird houses that first time. When he was done he looked at them and didn’t know what to do with them. So he called his daughter Kristy Boike, in New Prague, and said he needed help getting rid of the houses.

“I felt broken knowing there was nothing I could do for him,” Boike said. “When he called and asked for my help I jumped at the chance. It was something that I could help him with and that we could do together. ”

The platform Boike used to sell the bird houses was and remains Facebook Marketplace. 

She said that her first post spoke of her mom and the story behind the bluebird houses, which she believes resonated with people.

“Everybody in this heartache feels alone and you don’t have to feel so alone,” Boike said, adding that the bluebird houses and the Facebook post helped normalize a scary topic that also allowed people to share their story. 

See more in the print edition.

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