One of the countless musicians who came up under her wing at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Martin Devaney said she “had the biggest smile of anyone in the Twin Cities music scene.” All those musicians and many more within the scene were given another somber blow just before the holidays to learn that Leah Rule, who helped book bands with her husband Rob for a decade at the Turf, died early Friday morning after a nearly two-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 44.
“She left this world as she lived it -- on her own terms,” Rob wrote in a posting on Leah’s CaringBridge site. He said she passed away at home just after midnight while they were watching one of her favorite holiday movies, “Love Actually.” She had been receiving hospice care since mid-November after numerous rounds of chemotherapy treatments.
“She is now pain free,” Rob said, adding, “I'm one of the fortunate ones to have met my soulmate in this life.”
Also a bassist in the Mammy Nuns with Rob -- which anchored Tuesday nights at the Turf Club and the popular Grand Young Day tributes to Neil Young -- Leah was a fixture at the St. Paul rock haven from the mid-‘90s to 2005.
Before the Rules, the Turf Club and St. Paul on the whole were generally off the radar for Twin Cities rock ‘n’ roll hipsters. That changed greatly with the Tuesday night gigs and the St. Paul Music Club, which the Rules helmed along with Dave Wiegardt, who created the Clown Lounge in the basement. A childhood friend of Rob's, Wiegardt remembers seeing the couple hanging out in the Clown Lounge on their first date together and having "an immediate thing going on." Said Wiegardt, "Rob is kind of a quirky guy, and he just seemd so content and fulfilled with her."
The Rules' dedication to local music at the Turf went on to spark the eclectic, untrendy, garage-aesthetic scene that lives to this day at the University Avenue hangout. You still see SPMC stickers and T-shirts around the Turf and other venues to this day.
“The Turf Club definitely wouldn’t be what it is today without Leah and Rob,” said Ryan O’Rourke, the venue’s current talent booker.
A native of the Twin Cities, Leah was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2011. Her illness became public knowledge last winter when a benefit album and concert at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall -- each dubbed “Rock for the Rules” -- were organized in her honor, with participants including Molly Maher, St. Dominic’s Trio, Little Man, the Tisdales, Crossing Guards and Jennifer Markey. A second volume of the “Rock for the Rules” album is in the works for release early next year featuring the Rank Strangers, Roe Family Singers, Dan Israel, Kruddler, the Beatifics and even St. Paul metal vets Impaler.
The Rules left the Turf Club in 2005 when a new owner took over. They wound up moving to a farm in Boyceville, Wis., but they certainly didn’t leave their rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle behind. Leah created a comic book series on their country exodus, called the Rural Fox, which became the stuff of local legend along with the live gigs she and Rob would host wither their urban rock pals inside their coolly decked-out barn. Said Belfast Cowboys and St. Dominic’s Trio leader Terry Walsh, “Their barn became the best rock club in all of Wisconsin.”
Added Walsh, “She was nice and open and giving to all the musicians, whether they were big shots or nobodys.”
A memorial service for Leah is being set up for early January, probably at a music venue in the Twin Cities.