Schenectady

Bill Buell’s Electric City Archives: Remembering GE’s Rudy Dehn on his passing at 101; Helped develop microwave

Rudy Dehn, a 97-year-old GE retiree who helped develop the microwave oven in the 1960s, sits in the research room at miSci in 2017.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Rudy Dehn, a 97-year-old GE retiree who helped develop the microwave oven in the 1960s, sits in the research room at miSci in 2017.

It’s easy to like someone who’s 97. Especially when they’re friendly and have fascinating stories to tell, and still have that spark of curiosity in their eyes. Rudy Dehn had all of that and more.

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It was back in 2017 that I first met Rudy, who passed away last week at the age of 101. I was doing a series of stories on the history of General Electric, and when I sat down with him at miSci that day he started out the conversation by talking about his memory. He wasn’t too sure how much he could recall. Well, as it turned out Rudy had nothing to worry about.

Previous: GE engineer who helped develop microwave oven recalls career, July 9, 2017

We had a wonderful conversation talking about his failed attempts at baking a cake in a microwave oven, and his work with radar detection during World War II, and how they were related. He told me about walking from his small apartment on Broadway down the hill through the “subway” to his GE office before they moved out to Niskayuna, and he related stories of walking up New York’s highest mountains and creating the Schenectady chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

A graduate of New Jersey Institute of Technology who moved to Schenectady in 1942, Rudy worked at GE for 40 years as an engineer. But when he retired in 1982, Rudy didn’t stop doing things. He found plenty to keep him busy, giving his time to Habitat for Humanity or the Friends of the Schenectady County Library. And, for much of the last 30 years he spent volunteering at miSci. Chris Hunter, now senior archivist at miSci, first met Rudy in 1998 when Hunter started volunteering at what was then called the Schenectady Museum.

“He was one of the kindest, most dedicated people I have ever had the privilege to know,” said Hunter. “He had volunteered up through the beginning of last March and stopped due to the pandemic. Between the Hall of History and the museum he was here over 45 years and was one of the people who had answered Art Bueche’s challenge in 1974 to form the Hall of History and save the GE Photograph Collection.”

So, Rudy was still volunteering in his 100s. Think about that. I saw him last in February of 2019 at the First United Methodist Church of Schenectady where he had been a member since 1945. He really was a great guy.

A native of East Rutherford, New Jersey, Dehn lost the love of his life, Elizabeth, back in 1990, but with three of his own kids, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and a host of other friends, he was never lonely for company.

And the memories he must have had. He actually had conversations with Whitney, Langmuir, Suits, Coolidge, Hall, Schaefer and Alexanderson, among others. For those who don’t know their GE engineering history, that’s a pretty elite list. Rudy came a long a little too late to meet Steinmetz, but he talked to people who had known him.

Working as a reporter for 40 years you meet some incredible people, and included on my list, somewhere near the top, is Rudy Dehn.

Previous: GE engineer who helped develop microwave oven recalls career, July 9, 2017

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Categories: Life and Arts, News, Schenectady County

2 Comments

CARMEL PATRICK

I loved listening to Rudy and really admired his commitment to volunteer service. I considered myself lucky to be walking into a days work at miSci at the same time that Rudy was arriving because he always greeted me with a huge smile. I’ll always believe that the work he did during WWII helped us win the war. What a life Rudy had. I will miss him.

I loved working with Rudy when he helped with the 📰 distribution for the Friends of the Library. He was not happy when we switched the format from the ugly shade of green and to a more professional production but he didn’t really grumble all that much. A charming and gracious man with a fabulous smile.

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