Alannah Rudduck was still in her mother’s womb when her father, Robert “Bernie” McMaster, a reserve trainee for the Warrenton Police Department, died while responding to an alarm at Warrenton Grade School.
Twenty-three years later, McMaster’s sacrifice is helping his daughter finish college.
Rudduck, who is studying dental hygiene at Augusta University in Georgia, was recently named one of eight recipients for a $4,000 Workers’ Memorial Scholarship by the state Occupational Safety and Health Division.
The awards program, created by the state Legislature in 1991, helps family members of Oregon workers who have died or been permanently disabled on the job.
“It’s really hard whenever people talk about him,” Rudduck said of her father. “He sounds like a really good guy who would have helped.”
McMaster, a former Coast Guardsmen, joined the Warrenton police as a trainee while still in military service. In March 1996, he and his partner were called out to what ended up being a false alarm at the grade school.
On the way, a driver pulled out onto Harbor Drive in front of the patrol car. The car flipped while trying to avoid the other vehicle, landing upside down in the Skipanon Slough. McMaster, the passenger, and his partner were trapped inside for 10 minutes as the car filled with water. Rescuers reached the two and took them to the hospital, where McMaster was pronounced dead. His partner escaped with minor injuries.
McMaster is the only recorded death of a Warrenton police officer while on duty, said Warrenton Police Chief Mathew Workman. A tree decorated with a cross marks the site of the crash. A modest memorial to McMaster sits on the bookshelf at Warrenton City Hall.
Workman, a police officer in Nebraska at the time of the crash, never knew McMaster. But he lived next to Rudduck and her mother, Elena McMaster, in Hammond.
“From what people tell me, she reminds them of Bernie,” he said. “She looks just like her mom, but she has his personality.”
When Rudduck was in her senior year of high school, Workman began telling her about scholarships for the families of officers killed in the line of duty. He put her in touch with Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors, an advocacy group. The group awarded Rudduck a scholarship and has helped her learn about other support.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I didn’t realize how many scholarships are out there for children in my predicament.”
Rudduck, who grew up in a single-parent household, has adopted her father’s penchant for public service. She volunteered with the Warrenton Fire Department’s holiday food drive from 2007 until her senior year at Warrenton High School in 2014. While attending school, she worked days at the grade school’s preschool and nights at Fultano’s Pizza in Warrenton.
After high school, she married fellow Warrenton graduate Ryan Rudduck, a petty officer in the Navy. She moved to Gresham, where she earned three associate degrees from Mt. Hood Community College in general studies, science and art, along with a nursing assistant license. While attending college, she volunteered at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center filling IV carts and cleaning patient rooms.
Alannah Rudduck now lives in Georgia, where her husband is stationed at Fort Gordon. She is studying for a bachelor’s in dental hygiene with a minor in business at nearby Augusta University and plans to graduate next year.
“My mom always said he was a futuristic planner,” she said of her father. “Without him, I’d struggle, and I’d be in debt. I’m almost done with school, and I haven’t taken out a single loan.”