Harold August Paul Rutz

March 20, 1930November 17, 2020

Harold "Hal" Rutz, Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, Austin, was born March 20, 1930 in Milwaukee, WI. He attended high school at Concordia High, Milwaukee, graduated from Concordia University (then Concordia Teachers College), River Forest, IL in 1952, and completed a Master of Music degree at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL in 1960. In 1975, he enjoyed further musical studies at Cambridge University, England, and in 1985 at the Royal School of Church Music, London.

In June of 1954, he married Viola Larkin of Tampa, FL, whom he met while they were college students. He spotted her at a diner off campus and was unable to take his eyes off her. He was surprised and delighted soon after to see her walking with books in hand at the college. "Vi" was not easily won over, but persistence paid off. They were married for 62 years, with Hal providing unending devotion and loving care, first at home, and then by spending each day with Vi in her nursing home, throughout her many years of illness. After Vi went to be with her Lord, Hal’s devotion and undying love was expressed through daily visits to her graveside. His model of “unconditional love” was a testimony to all who knew him.

Hal taught elementary school and was parish musician in Detroit, MI from '54-'56 and in Kansas City, MO from '56-'64, during which time children Faith, Paul and Hope were born. Hal and family came to Austin in the summer of 1964 when he accepted the position as head of the Music Department at Concordia University (then Concordia Lutheran College). He taught music theory, music history, hymnology, piano and organ lessons, and conducted the college choir until retiring in 1996, receiving Concordia's Martin J. Neeb Teaching Excellence Award by vote of the student body that year. His choirs made annual tours in the southern US, and in 1985 he was co-leader of a tour to Martin Luther and J.S. Bach sites in what was then East Germany. His former students now serve in teaching and church music positions throughout the country and frequently remained in touch, even decades later, sharing concert programs they directed or other personal and professional accomplishments.

An outstanding organist, Hal performed frequent recitals and was extremely proud when he and son Paul were able to perform together. He played at countless weddings and funerals, and served as a substitute organist at Austin churches for over 50 years. He felt privileged to count among his organ teachers Dr. Hugo Gehrke, Dr. Paul Bunjes, Dr. Thomas Matthews, Dr. Peter Hurford at St. Albans, England, and Michael Radulescu at Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Hal loved to travel, particularly in Europe where he was thrilled by the great cathedrals and music. One of his favorite memories was attending the Festival of Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve after queuing up six hours in advance for a seat. An avid sports fan, he followed men's, women's, professional and college sports of all types. He enjoyed sailing, photography, and astronomy. He composed organ and choral music, and many of his compositions are published by Wayne Leupold Editions. He was active in the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, and Hope Lutheran Church in Austin. In retirement he served on the board of La Follia Austin Baroque and was involved in volunteer work for classical music station KMFA, Drive a Senior, and the Windsor Park Neighborhood Association. His unquenchable curiosity and appetite to learn were evidenced by his ever-growing stack of DVDs from The Great Courses. He was active and vigorous to the end, starting violin lessons in his 70s, swimming laps well into his 80s, renewing his passport at 87, buying a new car ("probably my last") at 88, and always happy to learn about the latest high-tech gadget or app from his grandchildren. His family was blessed to share time with him at a favorite beach spot in Florida just weeks before his passing.

On his last day on earth, Hal remained a teacher as he taught his daughters, at his bedside, how to write and speak John 1:1 in the original Greek. He went home to his Lord early in the morning of Tuesday, November 17. Hal was preceded in death by his wife, Viola; brother Carl; grandson Matthew Kelley; and daughter-in-law Sandra Henry. He is survived by daughter Faith Kelley and husband David; son Paul; daughter Hope Bartolotta and husband Peter; four Bartolotta grandchildren, Joy, Pierce, Eden and Asher; niece Patricia Wiedenhoeft; and nephew Gerald Rutz.

A private graveside ceremony will be held by the family. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Professor Harold and Viola Rutz Music Department Endowment on the website of Concordia University, Austin, entering the name of the endowment in the Other Gift Designation box.

Soli Deo Gloria


Harold August Paul Rutz

have a memory or condolence to add?

Carolyn Vernon-McCaleb

March 4, 2021

I remember Hal and Vi from time in Kansas City. Faith, I remember you also. Such a sweet little girl in 2nd grade. Would love to know about your life. Sorry for the loss of your parents. Please covey the message to Hope and Paul.. we know they are Praising the Lord.


January 14, 2021

During my second year as a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin [UT], my wife, Evelyn, became a 2nd grade teacher on the staff of Redeemer Lutheran Church & School, where a fellow faculty member was Viola Rutz, beloved wife of Harold Rutz, the parents of Hope Rutz, a student in Evelyn's classroom. By this connection we became good friends with the family, fellow church members at Redeemer, often joining them for a casual get-together of one kind or another, one of my most memorable being flying kites at nearby Reagan High School with their children, Faith, Paul and Hope. When my time at UT ended we moved back "up north", but the connection with the Rutz Family continued through the years with exchanges of letters, photos, and audio cassettes, and the occasional visit when we were in Texas. It's been 49 years that we have known this wonderful family of people, whom we dearly loved and treasured as friends. Now Hal and his beloved Vi sing "with all the saints and angels." May they rest in peace!

Karen Farley Moxley

January 1, 2021

So many of my memories of Concordia -Austin involve Prof Rutz. From Choir and the Spring Tour through the south to Florida... Easter Sunday in New Orleans... the musical, The Music Man (the one in 1973) ... even before I attended Concordia, Prof Rutz invited me to play my violin with the choir. My wedding in 1974 included organ preludes arranged by Paul Manz and performed by Prof Rutz. His gentle guidance and musical knowledge helped create harmonies that blessed those who performed and those listened. What an amazing concert is being enjoyed in the heavens with Prof Harold Rutz adding his incredible talents. Soli Deo Gloria

Bart Goddard

December 26, 2020

Hal was our go-to organ substitute at Trinity Lutheran, so I had some occasional interaction with him over the years. Then one day I made up my mind, (I think I had just turned 50) to learn to play the organ. The next time Hal was at the church, I asked him if he would teach me. So for the last 10 years, Hal and I had been meeting regularly. Hal gave me one of the greatest gifts I ever received. My last organ lesson was on September 20, 2018. I'll always cherish his gentle teaching style and his great stories.

Milton Uecker

December 2, 2020

As we approach Christmas many will likely recall "Its a Wonderful LIfe" as a Christmas memory. But Hal truly lived a wonderful life--a life of love, hope, joy, and peace. He sang of that hope, played countless hymns and anthems of praise, walked in the Spirit, and was a model of gentleness and humility. I often remember our lunch together at my 50th reunion at Concordia. We shared memories of our past, especially the years during which his dear wife Viola taught with me at Hope Lutheran and I taught his daughter Hope. A couple of weeks after that lunch he sent me copies of the books of poetry that Viola wrote. One of her poems ended with these words: "He has said, "Well done", and we echo back, "Well done, Faithful servant and friend."

Jeanne Devine

November 30, 2020

I was privileged to know Hal through the early music groups, La Follia and the Texas Early Music Project. He was unfailingly kind and generous. I give thanks for his long and accomplished lifetime of music and teaching, and I wish his family peace.

Patricia Nowlin

November 28, 2020

Professor Rutz was one of my favorite professors while I was studying music at Concordia. He taught organ with a passion and has had many great studies go on to be great organist. God bless you. When you hear a bell ring another angel has gained their wings! RIP Professor Rutz and hugs

Sara Schneider

November 28, 2020

I consider it a privilege to have known Hal, and to have had many opportunities to discuss music and travel with him. I will remember him as a kindhearted and generous man, and a gifted musician. He will be missed by the Austin music community! May he rest in peace.

Hope Bartolotta

November 26, 2020

Boston November 2019

Hope Bartolotta

November 26, 2020

September 10/2020