From his earliest beginnings, Rodney Watkins had a thirst for learning. His greatest joy was found in his field of study, and he loved sharing the world of geology with others through teaching. A man who often kept to himself, Rodney possessed a quiet demeanor with a heart of gold. He treated everyone as an equal, even though he was a highly intelligent individual. Shy in many respects, his beloved Mary brought out the best in him. Although gone too soon from the arms of those who knew and loved him, Rodney will be deeply and forever missed.
After years of struggle through the Great Depression and World War II, the post war economy in 1949 was thriving in a consumer driven society. The demand for automobiles, homes, televisions and other household goods was at an all time high as the baby boom saw many young families head for newly developed suburbs. The entertainment world was thriving and the new Buick Roadmaster was the shape of things to come for the auto industry. In Jefferson County, Washington, a young, hard working miner named Stanley Watkins and his wife Joy (Martin) Watkins had much to be thankful for when on March 19, 1949 they welcomed the birth of a son they lovingly named Rodney Martin.
The first of two boys, Rodney was later joined by his younger brother Bruce. Although a life of mining had it’s share of hardships, Rodney and his family formed a close bond as they moved often to places where his father could find work. They lived for a time in many small towns scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest, some of which had no running water. Even so, Rodney and his brother Bruce experienced much while growing up and shared many adventures together.
Although their family moved often, education was a very important factor in their lives. From the very beginning, Rodney took to school and had a thirst for learning. A rather shy and quiet boy, he was quite an inquisitive young man who was extremely intrigued by the world of bugs. He even began to thoroughly study them. In time his interest gravitated to rocks and geology and would one day progress into quite an interesting career. In fact, his brother went on to become a land surveyor. Needless to say, each of Stanley Watkins’ boys went on to follow in their father’s footsteps in one form or another.
Rodney went on to further his education at the University of California at Berkeley where he attained his Bachelor and Masters degrees in geology and paleontology. He went on to further study at Oxford University where he received his Doctorate in philosophy. In the early 1980’s he married, and immediately became step-father to Korina. The family grew when they welcomed daughter, Mackenzie, to the family. Though the marriage did not last, he maintained a relationship with both girls and considered both a major blessing in his life. In time he began teaching at the University of Texas before moving to the University of California – Chico State until 1988. It was then when Rodney took a position at the Milwaukee Public Museum as a Curator Geologist all while serving as an adjunct Professor of Geology at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Rodney absolutely loved his field of work and was truly a lifelong academic.
Always one to be on the shy and reserved side, it was while working at the museum that Rodney became quite fond of Mary Grant who worked at the ticket window. At times they would share casual conversations, but on August 4, 2000 Rodney left his zone of comfort and followed his heart. Completely out of character, Rodney walked right up to the ticket counter and asked Mary out. She accepted and the two enjoyed a memorable dinner together at the Knickerbocker Hotel. Warmth was found in each other’s company that evening, and the feeling was mutual. Mary saw into Rodney’s heart and was attracted to his gentle and sensitive nature. She appreciated his intelligence and loved his generous heart and spirit. Attentive and affectionate, Mary enjoyed Rodney’s friendship and love.
On June 20, 2002 Rodney and Mary were married in a ceremony at the Milwaukee County Court House. They celebrated the occasion with dinner at Ma Fischer’s Restaurant. Rodney retired in May of 2005 when a reduction in personnel forced his work with the museum to be eliminated. Although retired, he never seemed to quite quench his thirst for learning or exploring his love for his field of study.
On August 3, 2005, Rodney suffered a stroke which left him unable to walk or even sit up in bed. In spite of the doctors’ prognosis, he battled to recover enough to return home to Mary. Rodney still needed around the clock care. His doctors, however, were amazed at his progress as he accomplished far more than they ever thought possible, even climbing stairs. All the while, Mary was by his side, encouraging and engaging him at every opportunity.
On May 20, 2010, Mary and Rodney were enjoying time at a friend’s home when Rodney unexpectedly died. Throughout his life he was blessed with many acquaintances and colleagues with whom he held in the highest regard. Rodney always accepted people at face value — seeing the good in everyone he met. Though highly educated, he never thought himself as better than anyone. His quiet courage and compassionate nature will be fondly remembered by all who knew him.
Rodney was the beloved husband of Mary; cherished father of Mackenzie Watkins; dear son of Stanley Watkins and Joy Carlin; a dear brother to Bruce Watkins; stepfather of Korina Stern; grandfather of T.J. and Alex, and he is further survived by many other relatives and friends. Family and friends will gather at the Suminski/Weiss Family Funeral Home on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 from 5:30 PM until time of the Memorial Service at 6:30 PM. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to visit Rodney’s personal web page and leave a favorite memory, photo and to sign his online guest book.