Rodolfo Saplan Gelacio
August 12, 1947 — January 15, 2023
It is with heavy hearts that we bid a final farewell to Rodolfo Gelacio, affectionately known as Rudy. He passed away peacefully Jan. 15 at home with family at his side. Rudy gave cancer the best fight he could, living eight years past his initial Stage 4 diagnosis of six months. He was 75 years old.
Rudy was born in Camiling, Tarlac, Republic of the Philippines. He grew up on a farm with six siblings. He spent his early days planting vegetables and sugar cane, making molasses, and taking care of animals like chickens, pigs, and goats. Rudy, along with his dad and brother, Willie, loved playing and singing music. They started a band and frequently performed at parties and family gatherings.
Rudy was a hard worker who inspired his family. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1966 at age 18. In forging a career in the military, Rudy created a better life for his family by bringing his parents and siblings to America. He spent a total of 26 years in the Navy, ultimately retiring as a Chief Petty Officer Dec. 31, 1992.
Rudy spent most of his career as an aviation mechanic. He also served as a Master at Arms. His job took him around the world, with postings at Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the Philippines, the Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., NAS Miramar, Calif., NCC Pearl Harbor, Naval Air Facility Midway Island, Naval Air Station Barbers Point, and Naval Base Okinawa. His final posting was at NAS Whidbey Island.
Rudy was immensely proud to have served on five sea duty tours and an overseas tour. He was well-decorated, too. Over the course of his career, Rudy earned the Good Conduct Award (5th Award), the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon (4th Award), the Navy Achievement Medal, the Pistol Sharpshooter Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal (2nd Award), and the Vietnam Service Medal (2nd Award).
Rudy found a sense of purpose and belonging in the military. He also found love. One day, while stationed at NAS Miramar, Rudy attended a friend’s barbeque, where he met the most beautiful woman. He asked her to Disneyland for their first date for a magical beginning to their 46 year journey of marriage and raising their two daughters, Ella and Priscilla. Following his retirement, Rudy earned his Marine Technology Certificate from Skagit Valley College.
After the passing of his first wife in 2018, Rudy found love again. He met his current wife at a grief class at St Augustine’s Church in Oak Harbor. He and Aida shared a storybook romance, with joy and laughter that was infectious to others.
The couple tied the knot in St Augustine’s Prayer Garden July 4, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They were married by Father Paul Pluth and spent their honeymoon in their RV on the beach at Ocean Shores. This past summer, the lovebirds took a belated honeymoon trip to Hawaii. They were joined by the extended Gelacio family in Nimitz Beach, Honolulu, creating lasting memories.
Rudy had many hobbies, but what mattered to him most was family. He was selfless with his time and money to help ensure their happiness and success. He was a loving caregiver to his late mother-in-law, Betty Letrondo. The family will be forever grateful for his decision to allow Betty to continue to live in her Penn Cove home until her final days.
Rudy also loved to fish with friends and his grandchildren. He taught them how to drive the boat, find the best fishing spots, and drop crab pots. Rudy was an all-around outdoorsman. He especially enjoyed camping and taking RV trips. If he wasn’t on the boat or RV, Rudy was fixing cars, doing projects around the house, or researching information on his iPad.
Rudy will forever be known as Papa Toppins for the countless hours he spent helping the family at Toppins Frozen Yogurt. If there was a problem to solve, Rudy was on it. In 2019, Rudy helped secure the purchase of the 110-year-old Roller Barn to return the building to the community.
Rudy was all about supporting those closest to him. He served as auditor of the Filipino American Association of Oak Harbor, was an active parishioner at St. Augustine’s (Santa Cruz de Mayo and Simbang Gabi), and joined the Knights of Columbus, John O’Brien Council 3361.
Rudy also loved to sing karaoke. For one of his final performances in Hawaii, he sang ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra. At the end, Rudy said, “I will play this at my grave, I did it my way.” Yes, Rudy, you definitely did it your way, and we all admired every moment of it.
Rudy is preceded in death by his first wife, Florence J Gelacio; mother, Felicidad S. Gelacio; father, Florentino Q. Gelacio; and oldest brother, Wilfredo Gelacio. He is survived by his wife, Aida L. Martin-Gelacio; daughters, Ella M. MacDonald (Derrick) and Priscilla A. Croft (James); and grandchildren Jacob C. Boyes (Shawna), Megan M. Croft and Michael A. Croft. He is also survived by his siblings, Ceferina Leano (Leonardo) of Hawaii; Erly Aquino (Romy) of Hawaii; Orlando Gelacio (Marydee) of the Philippines; Loreto Gelacio (Nita) of Las Vegas; Delia McVay (Thomas) of Florida; and his extended Letrondo-Martin family.
A viewing will take place at St. Augustine’s Churchm 185 N Oak Harbor St., Oak Harbor Thursday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m., with a service to follow at 2 p.m. A reception will follow at Wallin Stucky Funeral Home, 1811 NE 16th Ave. in Oak Harbor.
A graveside service and military honors will take place at Tahoma National Cemetery, 18600 SE 240th St,. in Kent, Wash., Friday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m.