Faith in God, service to community staples for Rudison

Editor’s Note: February is Black History month. In an effort to recognize the contributions of Marshall County’s black population, Times-Republican Staff and Features Reporter Mike Donahey is featuring a current or former resident each Sunday through the month.

If Georgiana Rudison of Marshalltown had her way, she’d be at home, working as a volunteer for any number of worthy causes Monday through Saturday and attending church on Sunday.

But a fall at home several years ago proved too much even for the hardy and resilient Rudison, now 98.

She and her children – who live out of town – felt it best she move to Villa del Sol of Marshalltown.

Rudison accepted the change, and in a short time at her new home, developed an extended family of friends – made up of fellow residents and Villa staff.

No one is a stranger to Rudison – everyone in the facility’s bustling hallways received a greeting one afternoon.

She serves on the resident’s council and has contributed to Village Sun – the Villa’s newspaper.

When not reading, she likes to play the piano – a skill she developed years ago at the former Church of God in Christ.

The church was once one of four which served Marshalltown’s black community.

“The pastor showed me a chord or two,” she said. “And the Lord blessed me from there on.”

And it has been faith in God which has served as Rudison’s compass.

Her enthusiasm for her faith is contagious – her strong voice rises and quickens in pace.

It was in her grandparent’s home the family started the Methodist-Episcopal church. There, Rudison was a Sunday school teacher.

She reached out – and helped organize Bible study for mentally disabled children.

Rudison was born in Eutaw, Ala. on Feb. 6, 1915.

Her sharecropper parents were told she would not live to maturity because of an infection.

A boll weevil infestation in the cotton fields forced the family to move north.

In 1917, Rudison and her mother found a home with a brother and grandparents in Marshalltown.

She attended Marshalltown schools but dropped out of high school to marry the love of her life, Percy “Honey” Rudison.

“I had plans to graduate with my class and continue my education to become a teacher,” Rudison said. “But Percy had other plans for me.”

She and Percy started raising a family shortly after marriage and over the years the Rudison clan grew to five children.

“There was a lot of love in our household,” said daughter JoAnna Jackson of Des Moines. “Mom and dad were excellent role models for us kids.”

She and Percy were married 68 years.

He passed away in 1998.

But Rudison was undaunted in her quest for education.

She studied at home and graduated with the Marshalltown High School class of 1933.

Her high school diploma served as a catalyst to become active in the Parent Teacher Associations in schools attended by her children.

“I wanted to get to know those who were teaching my children,” she said.

Interest in Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA activities led to volunteering with that organization.

But there was more to do.

Her employment as a certified nursing assistant at the then Deaconess Hospital (now MMSC), motivated Rudison to help form its guild.

In 1964, she represented Marshall County’s branch of the National Mother’s Association in New York City.

“We (brothers and sisters) were taught to help further ourselves and others,” she said. “It was taught throughout my childhood.”

God’s will also spurred her on.

“Don’t give me credit, give it to God,” she said. “I am nothing without him.”

Her strong faith was equaled by a passion for civil rights.

She experienced a time when blacks were barred from the swimming pool and could stand and eat, but not be seated at lunch counters.

Percy was the first to break the color barrier at Fisher Controls.

Once employed by Younkers, then downtown, Georgiana asked to be promoted to a different department.

“Marshalltown isn’t ready for a black to be seen in that department,” the manager told Rudison.

She resigned.

“You will be back, because you like to eat,” he said.

“I didn’t go back, I went home and resumed being a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “We knew what discrimination was, but we never became bitter. We became volunteers in our community.”