99-Year-Old Fessenden Native Contributes Third $10,000
Gift to Germans from Russia Fund at NDSU Libraries
Marie M. Rudel Portner, born and raised on a farm near Fessenden,
North Dakota, and now a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, is becoming
the benevolent angel of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
at the NDSU Libraries.
The tiny, bright-eyed widow who still lives independently in her
own house, is pleased with the NDSU Libraries and Bibliographer
Michael M. Miller for their work in preserving the Germans from
Russia history in North Dakota. For the past three years, she has
supported the collection with a $10,000 gift each year, in memory
of her parents, Simon and Dorothea Rudel.
"We are very grateful to Mrs. Portner for her generous annual
donation to the NDSU Libraries," stated Libraries Development Director
Charlotte Cox. "Her continued financial support is helping to preserve
the heritage of all those, including the Germans from Russia, who
settled the northern prairies."
Marie, whose parents immigrated from Bessarabia, South Russia,
in the late 1800s to homestead on the North Dakota plains, and whose
husband was the late Hal Portner of Spokane, Washington, celebrated
her 99th birthday in April. She is no longer able to return to the
Fessenden area to see her many Rudel family relations who still
live and farm there, but she remembers her youth in Wells County
and her Germans from Russia background fondly.
On a recent trip to visit North Dakota natives with German-Russian
roots in the Las Vegas area, Mike Miller and Charlotte Cox found
Marie eager to discuss her Dakota past. With a sharp memory and
a keen wit, she reminisced about the family farmstead where she
shared an upstairs bedroom with her sister, the country school where
she began her education, and the life journeys that took her far
afield to Washington, California, and finally Nevada.
Because of Miller's genealogical research, he has been able to
inform Marie about the ancestral villages where the Rudels once
lived in South Russia. (Miller's own grandparents came from neighboring
villages in what is now southern Ukraine.) Over time, Mike and Marie
have developed a mutual friendship based on the understanding of
their common heritage and their common goal of safeguarding and
sharing the Germans from Russia culture as a part of American history.
One of Marie's most prized possessions is a hand-made history
of the Rudel family, carefully collected, documented, and bound
together by her nephew Norman Rudel. Norman, who still lives in
Fessenden and works part-time on the family farm, is the keeper
of the North Dakota memories and the Germans from Russia roots that
have helped to make the Rudel family what it is today.
"We're proud of Aunt Marie for taking an interest in our German-Russian
heritage," said Norman. "I think it's great that she's starting
to support the Libraries' preservation of North Dakota history for
the next generation."
For more information, contact Charlotte Cox, Libraries Development
Director, 701-231-7008; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.