Emma Elizabeth Rutherford Strange

Emma Elizabeth Rutherford Strange, 89, died Jan. 9, 2020, from an infection contracted during her recovery from COVID-19. 

She was born at home on May 13, 1931, on a farm located on a hill forty feet north of State Road 56 and four miles due east of the Orange County Courthouse in Paoli, Indiana.  She was the youngest child of Charles and Carrie (Jackson) Rutherford. 

Her home was the hub of much activity with neighbors and relatives visiting or seeking advice from her father. Dances were held often, as well as card parties. Even the night before she died, Emma was reminiscing about those times and her daily one-mile walks to her Aunt Ida’s house, saying, “I pestered her every day,” and remembering that her Aunt Ida had named all her cows “after us.”  It is fortunate that her last recollection of her childhood was of pleasant memories, such as ambling along the highway to see her aunt or crossing over to fish in the pond by her Uncle Lewis’ house.  

However, it is wise for those who remember her to bear the reality of the challenges she faced and how she bore them with stoic, independent determination. Her childhood was interrupted with the knowledge that her mother was suffering gravely from tuberculosis. Emma would also contract the insidious disease. She began hemorrhaging while attending an event at Paoli High School when she was 12 years old. She was admitted twice to Silvercrest Tuberculosis Hospital in New Albany for treatment. Sadly, while she was there, her mother died. Though losing a portion of one of her lungs, Emma was eventually released after her healing. Following her father’s death when she was 17, she lived at different times with both her brothers’ families and her sister’s family.  

With delays caused by her illness, she graduated at age 20 from Campbellsburg High School in 1951, and then attended business school at Spencerian College in Louisville, staying with sponsoring families while there and taking care of their children. After her graduation, she returned to Washington County and was employed by Public Service Company in Salem.  

One day, Farrell Strange came in to pay his electric bill. He then asked Emma for a date. She declined. When relaying that event to her apartment neighbor, Dessie Chambers, who cautioned her that if he asked her out again, she should accept, “because he was a fine young man.”  

On Aug. 10, 1958, Emma and Farrell were married at the Livonia Presbyterian Church. Soon after the wedding, the young couple moved into an apartment in Louisville to be nearer to Farrell’s employment at General Electric.

By 1959, the young couple had bought a home on Monaco Drive in the Okolona area of Jefferson County. It would remain their home for the rest of their lives. Soon after moving in, their neighbors Gordon and Edith Amos invited them to attend Bethlehem Baptist Church on Preston Highway. From that time on, Bethlehem became their church home.

While Farrell worked at GE, and later Walmart, Emma was drawn to serving others. It was therefore natural for her to be attracted to working for the Salvation Army. She was a vital employee for 43 years (1958-2001) at the Kentucky-Tennessee Divisional Headquarters. She wore many hats while working as secretary to over a dozen officers over the years, and at one point was even responsible for the fleet of vehicles for the Kentucky and Tennessee operations. As an example of her dedication, to make it easier for her substitute (the person who would fill in for her when she had her first child), she typed her job description on a portable typewriter in the car as she was on her way to the hospital to deliver her baby. 

As she got older, Emma developed other health challenges, including Type II diabetes. In 1994, she was diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer, but she never let it slow her down. She was just as headstrong in overcoming adversity as she had always been since the beginning of her life. In March 2020, after a bout of pneumonia, Emma moved to assisted living. She became COVID positive in November and went in the hospital. Remarkably, she eventually recovered from the COVID, but then developed the infection that ultimately took her life.

Emma was a mother to two daughters and a stepdaughter, and a grandmother to seven grandchildren. She passed along to them her values of integrity, endurance and independence.  

It is fitting that Emma will be laid to rest 145 feet north of State Road 56 in Stamper’s Creek Cemetery, Paoli Township, in Orange County. The cemetery was her half-way mark west as she walked to see her Aunt Ida. Her earthly remains will rest beside her devoted husband, Farrell, and near her brothers, parents, grandparents, and maternal great-grandparents, dating back to the origin of the cemetery when her Revolutionary War soldier ancestor donated the land for it and the church. Heaven will find Emma happily visiting among her family and friends and maybe even “pestering Aunt Ida.”

Emma is preceded in death by her parents, Charles Rutherford and Carrie (Jackson) Rutherford; her brothers Charles Rutherford and Carl Rutherford, Sr; her sister, Helen Burgess and her husband of 57 years, Farrell Strange. 

She is survived by her daughters, Vicki (Joe) Romanko and Kathi (Eric) Williams; her stepdaughter, Kay (Gary) Keck; and her grandchildren, Kerri Keck, Chris Keck, Jesse Williams, Spencer Williams, Casey Williams, Zachary Williams and Megan Williams.

The family would like to thank the staff at Morning Pointe who took care of Emma during much of 2020, as well as Dr. Condon and the U of L Endoscopy team who valiantly tried to save her on her last day of life.

Her funeral will be held on Saturday, Jan. 16 at Arch L. Heady & Sons Funeral Home, 8519 Preston Highway, Louisville, KY 40219. Public visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the funeral will start at 1 p.m. The funeral home chapel will be limited to 50% capacity (75 people), with social distancing and masks required. Food is not permitted to be brought into the funeral home. Burial will follow at Stampers Creek Cemetery, County Road 350 East, Paoli, IN 47454. 

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to Bethlehem Baptist Church, 5708 Preston Highway, Louisville, KY 40219; or to the Salvation Army-Louisville Area Command, KY-TN Divisional Headquarters, 216 W. Chestnut St, Louisville, KY 40202.


Please Login for Premium Content

Site Login Help

For current subscribers to The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat, you can login to the site using the following information:

Username: Please use your full email address associated with your account
Password: Please use your last name. Passwords are case sensitive, so please capitalize your last name (eg: Smith)