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About Rudi Schulte
Rudolf (Rudi) Robert Schulte passed away on December 20 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Rudi put up a valiant fight which was in keeping with the kind of man he was, strong-minded, ambitious and determined. Born February 8, 1932 in Altenhundem/Sauerland, Germany, it was Rudi’s desire from as early as he could remember to make America his home. In 1954 he realized his dream when the Mauritania passed below the Statue of Liberty and a twenty-two-year-old German man with his pregnant wife, Maria, and their year-and-a-half-old son, Henry, touched American soil for the first time.
Having achieved the distinction of being the youngest Master Watch Maker in Germany by the age of 21, Rudi utilized those skills and started his new life in Los Angeles working at watch repair for $40 a week. However, his ambitions, creativity and patience to work with tiny objects soon found him working on the prototype space suit pressure sensors used by Chuck Yeager in his pioneer supersonic flights. As it turned, out this was the perfect segue from which Rudi launched himself toward a future of new inventions and new companies. As destiny would have it, Mr. Ted Heyer, a nearby neighbor from his Pasadena home (which he purchased after only four years of living in the country) was working with a famous neurosurgeon, the late Dr. Robert Pudenz, on developing a shunt for hydrocephalus (excessive fluid on the brain). His watch making skills, his mind for inventing, and his gift to work with doctors initiated a flurry of products that are still widely used today, one of those being the first tri-leaflet heart valve designed in cooperation with the renowned heart surgeon, the late Dr. Charles Hufnagel of Georgetown University and his head nurse, Linda Kildea. The heart valve prototype is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
As Rudi’s business career blossomed, in 1961 he chose Santa Barbara to take up permanent residence and it was here the Heyer-Schulte Medical Corporation was born. The company flourished; founded on Rudi’s 1961 patent of the hydrocephalus shunt, Heyer-Schulte branched out into the first inflatable breast implant, silicone breast implants, eye lenses, shunts, and a myriad of other silicone implant devices. In 1974, Heyer-Schulte was sold to American Supply Corporation.
Though Rudi’s mind never stopped working on inventing more medical products, he held an even deeper love for the land. In many respects it was where his heart truly rested. In 1966 he purchased 260 acres in the foothills of Goleta and immediately began planting avocado trees. The ranch later expanded to 880 acres. In 1975 he purchased 1,100 acres up the Santa Barbara coast and developed the Baron Ranch into avocados as well. Two years later, word came that the magnificent 2,800 acre Dos Pueblos Ranch was up for sale. It took one visit and Rudi knew it was meant to be. And in 1988 he purchased the 1,400 acre Rancho Dos Vistas which shared its entrance with the late president Ronald Reagan’s ranch. Rudi would spend time on one or all of the ranches nearly every day and oversaw the daily operations. His love for the land and the planting of trees was a passion of which he never grew tired. Not entirely satisfied with growing just avocados, Rudi branched out into Christmas trees, macadamia nuts, cherimoyas, raising abalone and producing lavender oil, his much beloved fragrance. Being an unpretentious man, Rudi made it clear many times that he never considered himself an owner but merely a “caretaker of God’s land.”
Rudi loved life and also shared a passion for boating, traveling around the world to exotic places, sports, daily exercise and making a lot of his own food, including his special blend of teas and soups. He was very proud of the tomatoes he grew every year and he especially enjoyed long walks on the beach with his dog, Sheba and he made it a point to never miss a sunset.
In the same year that he purchased Dos Pueblos Ranch, Rudi ventured into an entirely different business. He partnered up with another gentleman by the name of Bob Stern and acquired fifty percent of the Pines Resort at Bass Lake, California. He eventually bought Stern’s fifty percent and expanded the resort to include 84 chalets and built a 20 suite lake front hotel complete with gourmet restaurant and full service marina.
Rudi went on to establish the Pudenz-Schulte Medical Company which still continues making and selling his products under the ownership of Medtronic, Inc. His legacy will continue on through the not-for-profits Rudi Schulte Research Institute and the Rudi Schulte Family Foundation which contributes financially to worthy causes.
In 1999, Rudi had been awarded the Prestigious Pioneer Award in Santa Barbara for creating hundreds of jobs and bringing the medical business into the community.
Rudi was a man of his word and everyone in the business world knew that when Rudi made a promise he would keep it and his handshake was more powerful than any written contract. His inventions continue to save many lives, his companies still provide food for many tables, and his warm smile and fervor for life will be sorely missed.
Rudi is survived by his wife Berta A. Schulte (Banales); his four children, Henry Schulte (Dundie), Paul Schulte (Shelley), Sylvia Molony (Mike), Peter Schulte (Hollie) and step-daughter Alicia M Guglielmo (P.J.); his grandchildren, Amber Donati (Rich), Marya Schulte, Jessica Willbanks (Mathew), Taylor Schulte, Brittanny Molony, Spenser Schulte, Alec Schulte, Danielle Schulte, Maxton Schulte, Skyler Schulte, Isabella Molony, Tiana Molony and great grand child Daxton Donati and his brother Heinz Schulte and sister Anita Thamm who live in Germany.
We know Rudi will be expressing his eternal gratitude to all of those who were there for him during his illness with a special debt of gratitude to Dr. Thomas Woliver, Dr. James Dunn, Dr. Robert Byers and especially all the caring staff at the Santa Barbara Cancer Center and members of the Hospice team with Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of Santa Barbara, Visiting Care and Companions and his caregiver Nora Gomez.
Of one thing we’re certain, Rudi’s creativity will be put to timeless use offering God a helping hand.