- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—DECATUR — Nancy Anne Rude, a compassionate champion for Decatur’s homeless population, died July 23 at home after a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 53.

Rude worked as a social worker for 25 years, the last 16 as director of Oasis Day Center, which opened in 1999.

“It was very much a mission,” said Diana Knaebe, president and CEO of Heritage Behavioral Health Center. “I don’t think she would have stuck with it for as long as she did if it hadn’t been her calling.”

Rude oversaw its 2001 move to larger quarters, giving hundreds of people a place to shower, do laundry and access other services. She also kept the shelter, operated by Heritage, afloat through numerous federal and state funding cuts.

Knaebe said Rude’s tough love but also respectful attitude helped her build a rapport with Oasis’ clients.

“She had a knack of knowing when somebody was ready for help,” Knaebe said.

Twice she was nominated for Decatur’s Women of Excellence Award in 2009 and 2011, but Rude never sought any personal attention.

“She wanted to be out there working with the folks directly,” Knaebe said.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Rude continued to work before taking medical leave in August. Many people didn’t even know she had been sick.

Oasis associate director Todd Tuggle remembers a meeting years ago when he first considered Rude his friendly “partner in crime.”

Events were being planned for a homeless awareness week that neglected to include anything for the homeless. She slid him a note that read “What about about a lock-in for homeless people?”

They ended up doing four overnight social events.

“This typified Nancy,” Tuggle said. “We did no publicity, there was no media, because it wasn’t about us. It was about them.”

In a March 25 column in the Herald & Review, Rude wrote about receiving accolades for her ability to relate to people.

“The truth is, during my past 25 years in the field (trenches?) of social work, I have met countless people from every walk of life, on different stages of their journey who have worked and continue to work just as hard, or harder, faced just as many challenges, or more, and made bigger sacrifices than I have,” she wrote. “For some reason, I just happened to get attention.”

Funeral services were Monday.

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