Clarence John Rutten passed away from complications of a broken heart, 10 months after losing his wife of nearly 65 years. He was surrounded by family and passed peacefully in Perham on Friday, February 23, 2018 at the age of 88. Born on July 10, 1929 in Butler, Minnesota, Clarence was the fourth of seven children of Joe and Kate (Dykhoff) Rutten. Clarence was delivered under difficult circumstances and spent his first several hours swaddled and placed in the oven for warmth. Clarence followed his father's footsteps into farming after graduating eighth grade from the Red Eye River School House. Clarence met the love of his life in Elizabeth (Betty) Wilkowski of Perham, MN. Clarence and Betty were united in marriage on June 17, 1952 at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Perham. They made their home on the Rutten Family Farm in Butler. Clarence performed his military service in the US Army, during which time he missed the death of his father and the birth of his first son. In 1958 Clarence and Betty moved to Florida to operate a large dairy farm. After five years in Florida they returned to Butler; and while Betty worked as a tireless homemaker, Clarence worked multiple jobs until he found work with Northern Pacific (later Burlington Northern) Railroad. After retirement Clarence found enjoyment and satisfaction as a well-known and beloved 55 Alive instructor. Clarence will be remembered for his: devotion to his wife; honor and integrity; beautiful baritone singing voice; ceaseless humor; and ability to produce exuberance and excitement around him. Clarence had an imaginative and adventurous spirit. Proof of his originality was his decision to leave the certainty of Butler dairy farming to move to Florida to engage in a large dairy operation that included the then radical ideas of parlor-style milking and combining the roles of dairy producer/hauler/marketer. Unfortunately, timing and market forces impeded his success and he was forced to leave his dream behind. Clarence and Betty's unwavering commitment to integrity was demonstrated as they spent the next several years paying off the Florida debts, one month at a time. Clarence started his work with the railroad as a laborer in 1964 and eventually worked his way to the position of Signal Maintainer. Clarence was proud of his rank and responsibilities on the railroad. His combination of competence and commitment produced admiration from coworkers and esteem from supervisors. Due to his amicable personality, clever sense of humor and reliable friendship he was often called upon to host as the Master of Ceremony for several co-workers' retirement parties. Clarence valued these friendships and kept in contact with many of his coworkers and their families. Clarence had a very systematic and methodical mind. He took pride in tackling many mechanical tasks on the weekends in his own garage, such as: engine overhaul, transmission rebuild, and motor replacement. He once replaced the rear axle on a ton pickup with a heavy-duty axle from a ton pickup. Afterward, using his trademark wit he christened his innovation The Five-Eighths. Perhaps his most proud mechanical accomplishment was to teach all his children how to check and change the oil in their own cars, sometimes by way of a reminder note surreptitiously tucked under the gas cap. Clarence functioned as a wise and accurate consultant on all matters relating to motor vehicles, up until the time of his death. A notable characteristic of Clarence was his remarkable wit; he was very funny and always had a joke to share. Like many of his generation he leaned toward frugality, the difference being Clarence used humor as a cushion. Each fall he and Betty would preserve what they didn't eat of their garden harvest. Clarence put it this way: "we eat what we can; what we can't, we can." And of his penchant for weak coffee, Clarence disarmed critics by stating that he, "reuses the coffee grounds until they turn white." Clarence's adventurous spirit encouraged him and Betty to travel Europe on several occasions and visit nearly all 50 states. In the early 1970's he bought a school bus to retrofit into a camper. The maiden voyage was an epic adventure to Disney World in Florida. On the way, Clarence made sure to visit cousins in Tennessee and his old farmstead in the Florida panhandle. Clarence's camper-bus was a reliable vehicle for years, transporting the family to many state parks and events. Clarence was extremely proud of the family that he and Betty established. He loved seeing his eleven kids perform as athletes and musicians; become fathers and mothers; create their own careers and families. While he occasionally raised his voice, he never raised a hand to any of his children; instead he led by example and cultivated an enduring respect. One could visibly notice his children stand a little taller when an acquaintance would inquire, "Are you Clarence's kid?" They were always proud to answer, "Yes, Clarence is my dad!" Clarence was preceded in death by Betty Ann, his wife of nearly 65 years; his mother and father; three brothers: Charlie (Marie); Albert and Lester; sister Rosella (John) Boogaard; and brothers-in-law John (Rosella) Boogaard and Bill (Evelyn) Boogaard. Clarence will be missed by: two sisters, Evelyn (Bill) Boogaard; Katherine (Merlyn) Hotvedt; 11 children and their spouses: Cecile (Jerome) Guck, Paul (Vickie), John (Cheryl), Albert (Lois), Mary (John) Peeters, Mark (Susan), Ann (Kevin) Commers, Chris (Peggy), Louis (Dana), Matthew (Angie) and Luke (Amy); 39 grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; and countless friends. In lieu of flowers and cards the Rutten family kindly asks that you make a donation to those less fortunate: your local food shelf and homeless shelter, as examples. Also, in the spirit of Clarence, engage in conversation with a stranger to make a new friend, and to reach out to say "Hello" to an old friend.
Please visit www.karvonenfuneralhome.com to send Clarence's family a message of comfort and support. Arrangements are provided by Karvonen Funeral and Cremation Services of New York Mills.