Eulogy for George F. Rodenbush, III
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Brockton, MA, September 12, 2017
Thank you, Father Gribble, for celebrating Mass with us today. Dad taught us the importance of a good education and the virtue of being a lifelong learner. He was proud of his Catholic education, including his degree from Stonehill, so I know he’s pleased to have you here with us.
Dad’s passing was sudden and we’ve all been grieving and seeking an explanation for his loss. I’ve found a little solace in a passage from one of my favorite books. One of the characters is speaking to his friend who just passed away and he says:
You told me once that a soul … is something that must be built, by effort and error, by study and love. And you did that with more dedication than most — that work of building a soul. Not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of those who knew you. Which is partly why your death is so hard for us.
That rings true to me about Dad — this week has been so hard because he has a good soul and he devoted it to those he cared about.
I think the best way to describe Dad is also the simplest — Jeff Rodenbush was a good man. He was a good man.
Dad believed in the value of hard work.
Growing up, he was kind of small, he had thick glasses, and, as he liked to say, he had “a strong back and a weak mind.” That, of course, wasn’t true. He was a smart guy, but I think he learned pretty early on that there was no substitute for hard work, for putting in the time and effort to make sure that every task received the care and concern it deserved. He taught us that lesson well and he led by example.
Dad taught me many of life’s lessons through sports. For us, that often meant hours spent together on the golf course. I think Dad loved the game so much, especially in retirement, because of how hard it can be. It takes time and patience and practice and even then you can still have a bad round. But in golf, like in life, he was always trying to improve. This is a true story: our cousin, Stephanie, once saw him in the parking lot at Wendy’s with his trunk open and a golf club in hand. He decided the parking lot was a good place to get some extra practice swings in.
Dad believed in telling the truth.
He was, like his own Father, a man of the phone company. Dad was a sales manager and a good one. He was frequently moved around southern New England to help out offices that weren’t meeting their quotas. But no matter where he went, Dad had a plaque in his office that said: “Accidents happen. Mistakes are forgiven. But if you lie, you die.” He taught us that same lesson of honesty at home.
Dad believed in being there for his family. He always came home.
Adam Johnson, Kerri’s classmate, but really an extended member of our family, wrote us this week:
As a high schooler, the Rodenbush household was my second home. It was the place I went after school, on weekends, after track meets, for terrible science projects, for pizza night, for dinner with “the 5 of us” which Jayne made for 20. I never remember Jeff NOT being there. He was present in his family’s life. He was a father, a husband, a man of the house.
And that was true. Dad was present in our lives.
Dad sometimes had long commutes for work, but he made it home for a family dinner every single night. He made sure we enjoyed The Beatles and The Beach Boys, he helped us with homework, and he gave us frequent “pop quizzes” about sports and American History. He also made the time to attend baseball and basketball games, track meets, and golf tournaments.
He coached Kerri’s youth softball team — a task he often said was like herding cats, but he LOVED teaching “my girls” as he called them.
Dad not only attended all of Kerri’s dance recitals, one year he even performed in one. As I’m sure you can imagine, he was a sight to behold. I still laugh thinking about him up on stage doing his best to keep up with Kerri’s moves.
Dad was also present in the lives of mine and Kerri’s friends.
One of the blessings of the past few days has been how many of our friends have reached out not just to offer condolences, but to share their favorite stories about spending time with him. He gave our friends goofy nicknames, he told them stories about what he called his “misspent youth”, and he made them laugh. In fact, Jen and I have friends in Washington who ask us when their pals Jeff and Jayne are going to come for another visit, because they are always so much fun.
And the same is true of our Aunts and Uncles and our many cousins- he had a soft spot in his heart for each and every one of you. Dad wasn’t a fan of long phone calls — or really talking on the phone in general — and he famously never used email, but he was always so happy when he got to spend time with our extended family at Lobster Bashes and cookouts, at graduation parties and weddings, or even just going to the Cape Cod Cafe for a pizza and a beer.
All of this is not to say that Dad was perfect. Like all of us, he had his flaws.
Dad wasn’t always forthcoming. When he was leaving the house growing up, his mother would ask him:
Where are you going? He’d say, nowhere.
Who are you going with? No one.
What are you going to do? Nothing.
I like that story for two first reasons.
First, because it sounds like something I would have said to my parents in high school.
Second, when I got to college and I’d forget to call home for long periods of time, I’d inevitably get a voicemail from Dad saying, “It would be nice if you called your Mother to check in.” So being a parent clearly changed him.
Dad could be pretty stubborn — a fact that his beloved siblings probably know better than anyone. Nancy, Kiki, John, and Jimmy — although you had your occasional differences, he loved all of you dearly and there is nothing he wouldn’t have done for you.
Dad loved a good meal, but he couldn’t cook. On the rare occasion that he was in charge of dinner, we either ate hot dogs he burned on the grill or he’d take us to McDonald’s.
Luckily for him, when it came to having a good meal — and so much else in life — he found the perfect wife.
Mom, Dad loved you so much. He was so proud of you, so protective and attentive to your needs. He supported and provided for all of us. Every day for nearly 37 years he worked hard at being a good husband. Your friendship, your love, and your deep connection to one another were evident to anyone who ever spent even a few minutes with you. Your marriage is an inspiration to so many, myself included.
Dad, I know your body has departed from us, but your soul lives on.
I’m sure you’ve already had a huge meal with Nana and Grandpa Norman and you’ve spent time with our brother Michael.
I know you and Grandpa Chic have already played a few rounds of golf, then joined Grandma to watch the Red Sox. I bet Aunt Alice and Uncle Jack have stopped by to say hi too.
And, Dad, because you gave so much of yourself, your soul exists in all who ever had the pleasure of knowing you. Your love and your wisdom and your joy for life will continue on in all of us.
I love you and I’m going to miss you.