By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Leah Marie Strom Rule, a longtime manager at the Turf Club, passed on the morning of December 21 after a nearly two-year struggle with cancer of unknown primary (CUP) — or as she referred to it, "the elephant." She was 44.
Later that day, her husband, Rob Rule, penned a note on her online journal saying, "Early this morning, Leah left us. Leave it to her to pick the shortest day of the year, possibly to 'shorten' our suffering. She's always been thoughtful that way." They were watching a favorite film, Love Actually, together when she stopped breathing. "She left this world as she lived it — on her own terms," Rob continues. "She is now pain-free."
He tells City Pages that he'll hold December 21 close from now on. "That will be Leah's day for me for the rest of my life," he says. "She's victorious in the end, because she finally killed the cancer. It's gone."
Leah Rule and her husband Rob were originally acquaintances in the Twin Cities scene. She started as a waitress and then was a waitress manager at the Turf Club. Her artistic and decorating pursuits became part of the fabric of the venue. Leah and Rob had their first date at the Turf Club on October 27, 1996, and were wed on that date exactly four years later.
The Rules spent a decade toiling together at the Turf while Rob booked bands and ran sound up until the mid-aughts, and helped cement the club as a prominent fixture for live music on University Avenue in St. Paul. They played together in the Mammy Nuns, hosted the pioneering St. Paul Music Club series, and staged 14 annual Grand Young Day concerts featuring Neil Young covers — first at the Turf and later as a weekend retreat in rural Wisconsin.
When the Turf was sold in 2005, the Rules decided to transition to a 40-acre slice of woods, pasture, and private vale near Boyceville, Wisconsin. There, the Rules created a hub of live music activity at their farm, and they hosted concerts in their barn. To document their new life, Leah created the Rural Fox, an intricately drawn 16-issue comic series. It depicts the adjustments that come with a cultured couple adopting country living in "Greenvale," a reference to their shared love of Neil Young's album/movie/graphic novel Greendale. Both Leah and Rob are characters in the humorous series — as are a cast of intelligent animals.
"On March 28, 2011, an elephant walked into the room where it holds court capturing the attention of homeowners and visitors alike," Leah writes in the final edition of Rural Fox. The handwritten note goes on to describe her coming to terms with illness, and wanting to live "a new life where people are the most important thing and worry turns into joy for each waking moment." She was cremated, and her ashes will be spread around the grounds at the farm.
On January 21, 2012, Amsterdam Bar & Hall hosted a concert dubbed Rock for the Rules to raise funds for Rules' mounting medical costs. The benefit included performances by friends of the Rules: the Tisdales, Little Man, Slim Dunlap, Molly Maher, Jennifer Markey & the Tennessee Snowpants, Al Grande, the Crossing Guards, Crotch Rockets, and Who Shot Sally.
A Rock for the Rules compilation, featuring Rural Fox artwork, is available on Bandcamp, and another volume featuring even more friends from the community is planned for early 2013. The second volume is set to be a triple album featuring 55 bands. Among them are Curtiss A, Dillinger 4, the Soviettes, Roe Family Singers, Impaler, Dan Israel, the Beatifics, Ike Reilly, House of Large Sizes, and Martin Devaney, plus the Mammy Nuns' version of "Shitty Day" featuring Leah on bass. "All are people we know personally, and all songs were written for, about, or specially selected for Leah. A musical love letter," Rob says.
"I'm blessed and will continue to be blessed to have shared some time with her," Rob writes of his wife. "I'm one of the fortunate ones to have met my soulmate in this life. She told me recently, that she would be my 'special ghost.' I dared her. No matter what, she is part of the fabric of my being."
On Friday, January 4, the Cedar Cultural Center will host a memorial for Leah Rule between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. The event will feature a slideshow of Leah's life accompanied by her favorite songs. Members of her family are expected to give remembrances, and some local acoustic music, courtesty of Rich Mattson and Terry Walsh, will also be a part of the ceremony.