Jeannette Ludcke, an innovative home economist for several Twin Cities corporations who also helped bring the Minneapolis Woman's Club into the modern era, died Oct. 2 in Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina. She was 97 and had lived in Minneapolis' Jones-Harrison Residence for two years.
To the end, she was a fearless, curious woman of great intelligence and good cheer, said her daughter Anne Greer of Woodbury.
She was born Jeannette Campbell in 1914 in Ohio, and graduated from high school in Cleveland Heights. At 14, she learned to drive a car -- a hand-cranked vehicle -- and drove well into her mid-90s.
Encouraged by a female cousin who was a doctor, she entered the premed program at Ohio University in Athens. Four years into it, daunted by chemistry, she switched to home economics, graduating in 1936. Confident and happy -- sisters in her sorority, of which she was president, called her "Powerhouse" -- she never doubted she'd have a rewarding career, Greer said.
After college, she got a job at Westinghouse in Cleveland. In 1939, Minneapolis Gas Co. officials heard her Dale Carnegie-honed speech at a convention and decided they had to hire her, her daughter said.
And so she moved to Minnesota, where she oversaw the gas company's home service department. She taught consumers how to use their gas appliances and how to get the best use out of their "victory gardens," especially on Minneapolis' North Side. She also was a frequent guest on WCCO Radio's "Calling All Women" show and wrote items for the Minneapolis Daily Times.
After long days at work, she volunteered as a hospital "gray lady," filling in for nurses called to the war front. "The gray ladies worked so hard," Greer said. "Their fuel was Cokes and cigarettes." (She later quit smoking.)
After World War II, General Mills hired her to work in its Betty Crocker kitchen. She oversaw its first cookbook's chapter on cookies.
In 1949, she married George Ludcke, and for a few years became a full-time homemaker at their south Minneapolis home, raising Anne, George and Bill.
When Bill entered first grade, Ludcke returned to the workplace as a home economist for Supervalu. She wrote news and advertising copy under the name Janet Campbell, much of which made its way into local publications.
"She traveled a lot for that job, sometimes for the whole week," Greer said. "She would cook us meals for the whole week and freeze them. The house would get kind of messy, so a half hour before we picked her up at the airport on Fridays, we'd rush through the house like those things in 'The Cat in the Hat' and clean it all up."
Ludcke's husband nicknamed her "Hot Hood" because she was always driving around, her daughter said. Ludcke retired from the workplace in the mid-1970s.
From 1981 to 1983, she was president of the Minneapolis Woman's Club. Terri Buhrer and Sandy Morris, recent past presidents, praised her as a wise mentor and gentle change agent.
"She was gracious and beautiful, with significant blue eyes," Buhrer said. For the club, Ludcke was "the right person at the right time," Morris said. "As a working woman, she was a great role model, and she knew working women were the new group we were welcoming." She pushed to change club rules, including one that banned women under 38 from voting or holding office.
Her husband of 51 years, George, died in 2000. She was also preceded in death by a son, George III. In addition to her daughter Anne, she is survived by a son, William Ludcke of Montana; a brother, Bill Campbell of Atlantis, Fla., and four grandchildren. Services have been held.
Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290