Celebrating Ed Rodda

Honored for his 100th birthday by friends and family


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  • Photos by Ann Genader Mayor Bettina Bieri escorts a surprised Ed Rodda at his 100th birthday celebration.




  • Shirley Tice Mazalewski, left, was the 4-year-old flower girl at the wedding of Ed Rodda and his late wife, Almeda in 1939. wedding. The Roddas were married for 72 years.



“I was struck by this wonderful man. He was elegant and nice.”
Former mayor Robert Moshman, recalling when he first met Ed Rodda

BY ANN GENADER

With Ed Rodda still coming to work at West Milford Town Hall three days each week, it was rough for the employees to plan a celebration to mark his 100th birthday without him knowing about it – but they pulled it off on Sunday May 7. The event was at the BPO Elks Lodge 2236 on Union Valley Road.

The usually talkative centurion was speechless when he and his son, Forrest, entered the lodge to be met by a large gathering of familiar faces shouting “Surprise!” and “Happy Birthday.”

From Paterson to Oak RidgeRodda was born on May 16, 1917 at the family home on Goshen St. in Paterson. He was the youngest of four children. Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. Rodda has seen 18 presidents lead the country during his lifetime.

Relatives owned a farm in Oak Ridge where, during his youth, Rodda spent memorable times. He eventually moved there permanently.

At age 19, he began pumping gas and doing chores at a business on Old Route 23 in the hamlet of Newfoundland.

Rodda met and married Almeda Mackey, daughter of township of West Milford Municpal Judge Forrest Mackey. Their son, Forrest (Bucky) Rodda, and his wife, Vicki, were with him at Sunday’s celebration.

Also present was Shirley Tice Mazalewski, who was the four-year-old flower girl at the wedding at the United Methodist Church of Newfoundland on April 8, 1939.

The Roddas were married for 72 years.

Service to the townshipRodda served as registrar of Vital Statistics for the Township of West Milford from 1947 until his retirement in 2006. He had also served at secretary for the Board of health. However, the fact that he was no longer at town hall with his many “best bud” employee friends left voids in his and his former colleagues’ lives.

After Rodda retired, the township began to share registrar services with neighboring Bloomingdale Borough. With volunteerism always important in his family, Rodda decided to return to town hall to do his old job when the Bloomingdale registrar was not in the office on a volunteer basis.

His presence back in town hall was comforting to the employees who had missed the atmosphere he created. Township Administrator Antoinette Battaglia noted that Rodda has a way of making everyone around him happy – including the employees and the residents who come in to do their business.

Rodda's volunteer work has saved the taxpayers thousands of dollars. His long time efforts to help others was recognized by the township in 2007 when he was chosen West Milford Volunteer of the Year and again in 2015 when he received the Mary Byrnes Haase West Milford Lifetime Volunteer Award. He is the only person who has ever received both awards.

A festive partyFormer Mayor Carl Richko was master of ceremonies at Sunday’s party for Rodda. West Milford Administrative Assistant Cathy Shanahan led the planning committee for the event. She and other municipal employees practiced many days after work hours and during their lunch breaks learning a dance routine that they did during the celebration. Mayor Bettina Bieri welcomed the crowd and presented Rodda with an appreciation plaque – and she was also one of the dancers.

Councilwoman Marilyn Lichtenberg said she graduated from West Milford High School in 1966 and at 18 was working in the township tax collector’s office, moving on to the treasurer’s office at 22. After she spoke about the kindness Rodda showed to her as a young employee, he said he knew in those days that this woman had many things going for her because she was young and beautiful and had a wonderful personality.

The tributesMark Richards, son of the late West Milford Building Inspector Gene Richards, said he was 4 years old when he first met Rodda. The young Richards traveled around with his dad as he did his job. When they returned to the town hall office for his father to complete his paperwork, Rodda would speak with and recognize him. Eventually, they shared their interest in trains – something they still discuss today.

Bill Messmer, retired town hall custodian, came in from his home in Delaware to honor and praise his friend.

Former Mayor Robert Moshman referred to himself as an outsider in the crowd of long-time residents at the party.

"I’ve lived here for only 32 years," he said.

“I was struck by this wonderful man,” said Moshman. “He was elegant and nice.”

Fourteen years later, when Moshman was elected as a local government representative, Rodda was still working in his office at about 82. When politics put the former mayor out of office, Rodda was still there – and he still is, noted Moshman.

As the weekend and party was coming to a close, many township employees were looking at the start of the new work week on Monday. As usual - for three days of that week - Ed Rodda planned to be in his old office conducting business for residents of the Township of West Milford.

Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and share your birthday messages with Ed Rodda.


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