MU student soldier dies helping motorist on U.S. 63

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | 11:56 a.m. CST; updated 5:16 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Neilson Rudd, a 22-year-old MU student and officer candidate for the Missouri National Guard, was killed while trying to help motorists along U.S. 63 near Jefferson City on Sunday.

Neilson Rudd, a Missouri Army National Guard officer candidate and 22-year-old MU junior, was struck and killed by a car on U.S. 63 Sunday when he stopped to assist another motorist.

Rudd had just finished his weekend drill at Fort Leonard Wood, south of Lake of the Ozarks, and was headed north to Columbia on U.S. 63.

Near the Katy Trail Bridge north of Jefferson City, he spotted a car on the roadside that had been involved in an accident.

His girlfriend of five months, Mina Im, a 22-year-old MU student, said she received a call from Rudd at about 5:05 p.m.

He told her about the accident and asked if he should go back and help.

Im said she wanted him to continue on to Columbia, but Rudd was determined to stop. As he was walking back to his car, he was struck by another driver.

A 31-year-old Holts Summit woman was headed north on U.S. 63 in her Ford Explorer. She lost control of her SUV on the slick, ice-covered bridge and skidded off the left side of the highway into the median, striking Rudd.

Rudd was pronounced dead on the scene. There were no other fatalities in the accident.

Im said she kept calling Rudd that night, never receiving an answer. Worried, she went out on the highway to look for him. She finally went to his house in Columbia, where Rudd’s roommate broke the news to her.

Thomas Rudd, his father, said his son should not be characterized simply as a “Good Samaritan.”

“My son was not just a typical citizen bystander acting without any good sense,” his father said. “He knew what he was doing. He was taking a calculated risk. He considered it part of his duty, based on his training, to help people in this situation.”

Rudd joined the Missouri National Guard in March 2006 as a military policeman in the 1140th Military Police Company in Fulton. He completed basic training seven months later. This spring he enrolled in the Missouri Army National Guard Officer Candidate School. His father said he would have been commissioned in September and intended to make the Army his life.

Sgt. Brian Kirkpatrick was Rudd’s platoon sergeant for about three months after Rudd came out of basic training.

“He was a very professional, well educated young man,” Kirkpatrick said. “He wanted to make quite a bit out of his military career.”

Rudd was from Wildwood, a suburb of St. Louis. He graduated from Parkway West High School in nearby Ballwin in 2004, where he played lacrosse.

“He was a selfless kid; very playful, quite a bit of a jokester — but careful,” his father said.

At MU, Rudd belonged to the Kappa Sigma fraternity and did Army ROTC. He was majoring in international business.

Im described him as a caring boyfriend, who bought her a puppy and brought her coffee when she was tired at work.

His fraternity brother James Forbes said Rudd loved the military and enjoyed skateboarding, surfing and hanging out with friends. Forbes described Rudd as a guy who would “give you anything he could.”

“We called him ‘Seamus’ because he looked Irish,” he said, referring to Rudd’s red hair and freckles.

“He was a really great guy, really friendly, outgoing,” Forbes said. “If you were stranded, he’d come and pick you up. You’d call him and he’d be there.”

Since Sunday, two MU-based Facebook groups with a combined total of over 400 members have been created by friends in Rudd’s honor: “In Loving Memory of Neil Rudd” and “Neilson Brady Rudd, we will always remember you.”

“He was always wanting to protect someone else, ever since he was tiny,” Rudd’s father said. “It was part of his DNA, if you will. I’m not at all surprised by what he did. It was completely within his character.”

There will be a visitation at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Schrader Funeral Home, 14960 Manchester Road, Ballwin, and a memorial at 10 a.m. Monday at the same location. Rudd will be buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.

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