Lorethea H. Potts-Rusk, 75, of Vincennes, was lifted into the arms of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ late Saturday evening at her home with loved ones and Good Samaritan Hospice providing her care.
Lorethea was the daughter of Dorothy Potts Morning Spence and Charles R. Potts. She was married to Larry J. Rusk, who survives. When they married in 1986, Lorethea was overjoyed to move into the home Larry owned, which was also the home her great-grandfather, Charles Elliott Seed, built in 1911, 704 N. Seventh St., in Vincennes.
Lorethea’s father named her after his cousin, Lorethea Amsler Hamke, who owned and operated Charlie’s Caramel Corn and Candy Shop for more than 50 years. Lorethea’s father, a Knox County native, served in the U.S. Army as his career, and during her childhood, the family was based at Lorethea’s birthplace near San Francisco, California; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and in Sasebo and Kyoto, Japan. Lorethea was the proverbial “daddy’s girl” and suffered a life-defining moment when her father passed away unexpectedly when she was 10 years old.
Several years after her father’s passing, Lorethea, her mother, and brother, Leslie, moved to Vincennes, her father’s hometown. As the new girl in school, Lorethea did not experience the cliqueness commonly associated with small towns. Instead, she made friends with girls who later became known as “the Honeys” and remained close with each one throughout the rest of her life. Her high school years included membership in Job’s Daughters, and she served as honored queen of that organization. Lorethea graduated from Lincoln High School, a proud member of the class of 1965. She was designated as a distinguished alumna by the LHS Academic Society in 2002. She attended Vincennes University and graduated from Indiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in 1969, and earned a master’s degree in 1995. During her college years she joined Alpha Phi, and served as first vice-president.
Her professional career began with teaching positions at Tippecanoe Jr. High School and Lincoln Special Education School in Lafayette. She later joined what was then called the Indiana Employment Security Division (now WorkOne) at the Vincennes local office as an employment counselor. Lorethea was promoted to supervise the trade readjustment unit in the Indianapolis central office. While she was in charge, the program grew from 200 recipients to more than 100,000 unionized workers. The federal certifications of U.S. Steel, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors at many of their Indiana locations required Lorethea to travel the state and negotiate with the labor unions to establish claims processing operations at those locations. Her work in training staff and supervising more than 300 employees was recognized with state and national awards in 1981.
In 1983, Lorethea returned to Vincennes to assume the position of curriculum specialist at VU. In 1986, she married the love of her life, Larry Rusk. At the university, she worked with the occupational program offerings and served as the university’s liaison to the State Board of Vocational and Technical Education. Her written proposals to that state board resulted in the approval of new occupational degree programs for the university, ranging from surgical technology and biomedical equipment technology to the tractor/trailer driving school, and the one she most prized, the American sign language program to educate interpreters to serve the deaf community. VU recognized her for exemplary service in 1993.
Over her 29 years of employment at VU, Lorethea was elected and served two terms as president of the professional staff congress. She received the university’s blue and gold cord award both as a student and much later as an employee. In 2005, she became the director of human resources and affirmative action officer and served in those roles until her retirement in 2012. She noted having come full circle in her retirement remarks, remembering her very first job in 1964 was also for VU. As a narrator on the Trailblazer Tourist Train, she dressed in period costume and also guided visitors through the Territorial Capitol Building and the replica of the Western Sun Print Shop.
Lorethea was a member of the First Church of God in Vincennes. She served on the board of directing elders and as secretary of the congregation. During her more than 30 years as a member, she helped with loaves and fishes, the soup kitchen, promoted the power team, the music camp, and the building campaign. She served on the decor committee for the new sanctuary and was instrumental in the design of the Christ window, which was unveiled in 2000.
After her retirement, Lorethea joined the Vincennes Fortnightly Club, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Ethel Seed Potts and her great-aunt, Vera Seed Curtner. She gave book reviews and organized Faith Fest fundraisers for the organization and loved her new found friends.
Lorethea enjoyed traveling, and with her husband, Larry, traveled to three continents (20 countries) and all 50 states. She thrilled at the sights of the cherry blossoms in Kyoto, the Christ the Redeemer mountain top statue in Rio de Janeiro, Paris, London and the “Swan Lake” ballet in St. Petersburg. She loved to read and participated in a variety of Bible study groups. She photographed flowers, lampposts, frost patterns on autumn leaves, crosses, and anything she saw as beautiful. She endeavored to select the perfect gifts for those she loved. She listened more than she talked. She loved with her whole heart.
Lorethea was preceded in death by her parents and her half-sister, Dawn Morning Catt.
Her beloved husband of 36 years, Larry Rusk, survives, along with her brother, Leslie Potts of Hollywood, Florida.
Lorethea never gave birth to children of her own and devoted most of her energy as a young adult to her career. She held many titles, but those most meaningful were “Aunt” and “Grandma.” The survivors who addressed her with those titles and brought music to her ears when doing so include her beloved nieces, Kayla Gaines of Vincennes, Taylor (Stacey) Noble of Bridgeport, Illinois, and her great-nephew, Jayden Eakins of Vincennes.
Lorethea was honored to be step-mother to Larry’s daughters, Jodie Rusk Huss (Jeremy) of Indianapolis and Suzanna Rusk Linderman (Patrick) of Jasper. She delighted in her role of grandmother to six grandchildren, Jessica Bright Dant (Riley) of Indianapolis, Aubry Bright (Josh Halter) of Port Angeles, Washington, Alex Mahrenholz (fiance, Josh Hamblin) of Lawrenceville, Illinois, Thomas Mahrenholz (fiancee, Olivia Emard) of Indianapolis, Fiana Lee and Jaydon Linderman of Jasper; and great-grandmother to Rockwell “Rocky” Bright Halter and Everett Steven Dant.
She also leaves behind beloved cousins, Judy (Dave) Woods, Leah Lynn Woods, Sandra Ralston, and Lisa Grootemaat all of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Sharon Cain of Pensacola, Florida. Sisters-in-law, Joann Rusk Tabb of Robinson, Illinois, and Karen Black Rusk of Cape Coral, Florida, survive, along with brother-in-law, Paul Rusk (Phyllis) of Prescott, Arizona.
Two brothers-in-law preceeded Lorethea in death, Daniel W. Rusk and George Tabb. Jessy Fessel, Vincennes, who became niece Taylor’s mother in 2006, always held a special place in Lorethea’s heart.
Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Friday at Goodwin-Sievers Funeral Home.
Funeral services will be Saturday at the First Church of God, 1408 E. 14th St. There will be a one-hour visitation beginning at 10 a.m. before funeral services begin at 11 a.m.
Pastors Will Huebner, Fred Nocus, and former Pastor Georg Karl will each participate in Lorethea’s memorial service. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery, Vincennes.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Vincennes First Church of God Missions, Good Samaritan Hospice, or the Dorothy J. Spence Scholarship Fund at Vincennes University.