ORONO - Rudolph Jerome Hikel died peacefully in his residence at Dirigo Pines in Orono, after a brave struggle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Rudy was born on June 2, 1926, in Waterville, Maine, to Tutla Corey Hikel and John Hikel. Rudy and his family were raised in the lively 'Head of Falls' mill-workers' neighborhood near the Kennebec River.
Rudy enlisted in the Air Force in 1944 while still in high school, and was training as a flight engineer when the war ended. He was assigned to postwar reconstruction in France and Germany, where he acquired a lifelong appreciation for French cuisine and German engineering.
After his discharge in 1946, he completed high school at Coburn Classical Institute in Waterville, paying his way with help from the GI Bill and work at Levine's Store. He attended Bowdoin College, where he majored in economics and history, and played quarterback for the football team. He graduated from Bowdoin in 1950, then went back to work at Levine's, where he was recruited by Harold Alfond, the owner of the Norrwock Shoe Company. Rudy enjoyed a lifelong career in shoe manufacturing - at Norrwock, Dexter Shoe, and Spot Bilt. He was instrumental in setting up the Dexter Shoe Factory Outlets throughout Maine.
Rudy and his friends were regulars at the Island Park Band Stand on Lake Cobbosseecontee. His story was that one evening a gorgeous young woman tapped his arm, and said, "Aren't you going to ask me to dance?" He and Barbara Ekemsky were married on September 21, 1951.
Rudy and Barbara raised six children in Skowhegan, teaching them all to read, write, fish, ski, and throw a spiral pass. They moved to Orono, where he took a retirement job at the University of Maine's Fogler Library, worked as a literacy volunteer in the community, and rode his bike around the campus paths daily, while his health allowed.
Rudy was predeceased by his wife Barbara in 2005. He is survived by his children and their families: daughter Katharine Hikel, of Hinesburg VT, her partner Walt Breck, and grandchildren Cameron and Jaida Breck; daughter Joy Hikel of Madison, grandson Casey Rae and his wife Faith Swords, and great-granddaughter Clara Swords; daughter Barbara McCree of Glenburn, her husband Jamie, grandson Jesse, his wife Sarah, and great-granddaughter Hannah; granddaughter Kate Hills, her husband Jeremy, and greatgrandchildren Jaylin and Kobe Hills; daughter Elizabeth Jewell of Chapel Hill NC, granddaughter Hannah Jewell, her husband Jon Dowse, and great-grandchildren Wyatt and Walter; grandson Raphael Jewell, his partner Liz Hanson, great-grandchildren Annie Mae and Timmy, and their mom Katie Hackett; son Jake Hikel of St. Croix, USVI; and son Dan Hikel, of Truckee CA; and by his sister-in-law Zanie Nawfel Hikel, of Pittsfield, his niece Duska Hikel, and great-nephews Travis, Corey, and Hunter Fitts; his nephew John Hikel and partner Elaine Paradis; his sister-in-law Rita Theriault Hikel, his niece Anne El-Habre, great-nephew Ian El-Habre, and nephews Joseph Hikel and Adam Hikel; his nephew Lance Fedick, his wife Karen, great-nieces Duska and Delta Fedick and great-nephew Michael Fedick; his nephew Matt Hikel, his wife Barbara, and great-nephew Alex Hikel; his nephew Luke Hikel, and niece Laura Hikel; and his cousin Pete Hikel, his wife Kim, and their children Kacy and Matthew Hikel.
The family extends warm gratitude to all the staff at Dirigo Pines, and to the staff of Eastern Maine Home Care and Hospice for the love and compassion they provided Rudy throughout his stay. As he always said: "People are the most important thing."
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Rudy's honor to The Boys and Girls Club and YMCA of Greater Waterville at the Alfond Youth Center, 126 North St., Waterville, ME 04901.
Condolences to the family may be expressed www.BrookingsSmith.com.