Our Friend Rod
Hi everyone, I found out about Rod a couple of days ago. Besides being shocked, confused, and deeply saddened, I’ve been reflecting on Rod and his time at Bikes Together and what he meant to us and to the organization. I wanted to share these thoughts with you all if it’s okay. I know I missed a few people, if you know of anyone that could get anything out of this, feel free to pass it along.
Rodney Zeman AKA Rod Leman was a secret man. There was always something on his mind that he was keeping to himself even if talking was never a problem for him. That’s because Rod had one of those minds we all wish we had, one that was creative, resourceful, solution oriented, driven, passionate, forthright, and incredibly impactful to anything he put it to. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell you it’s just that what he was thinking of was so big and so complex he was often always working on it as he was speaking to you.
And he chose to share his vision with Bikes Together. He chose to put his time into this nonprofit (and a few others!) because this is where he thought he could make a difference. For the past few years Rod has given himself to this organization because he cared about the people involved, the staff, the other volunteers, the program participants, and also the mission. But I’m not sure some of you quite know what that looked like.
There were days, often Thursday, where I’d come into Park Hill at 10 am before going down to Mariposa and Rod would already be at the shop, coffee made, music going, lights on, Rod at a desk on his computer running budget numbers, figuring out how to organize the Annex, brainstorming ways to improve the volunteer mechanic area, setting up the next Rodeo or EAB class, meeting with staff or other volunteers, asking me a question or two he’d been saving up for a week or two, moving the new donations to the right place, or already on his 2nd bike of the day. And I knew to always check in with Rod because he just had answers and/or opinions for all sorts of Bikes Together problems. Well, then I would leave, take the truck down to Mariposa to load up scrap for later. After working all day at Mariposa, I’d take the scrap back up at Park Hill. Often it would be 8:00-8:30pm and I’d walk into Park Hill and there’d be Rod, teaching a class, teaching a volunteer on a bike, fixing up a bike for a program, organizing for an event….if you look at Rod’s volunteer numbers not only are there an insane amount (one year we figured Rod was putting in 32+ hours a week.) but look how many 10+ hour days he had. It’s mind boggling!
Rod gave everything to volunteering these last few years. All the infrastructure, from the way the PH volunteer shop and Annex are organized, all the signs for all the parts, all the little handy tools, hooks, and clever time saving devices almost all came from him. Not many people know that the bones of Mariposa’s program side were laid down by Rod. Or that he organized 4 or 5 volunteers, grabbed the company credit card and, with this team, built all the work benches for Mariposa in one marathon day. He had a lot of help but Rod was the center of it all.
Rod, after Lee Ann left in May of 2018 WAS our programs manager until August 2018. If we had a last minute teacher cancellation or if we just couldn’t find a teacher, Rod ALWAYS stepped in to teach. I even remember one time a class standing around waiting for a teacher and one of the staff realized there wasn’t one and Rod just walked up out of nowhere and took over that class. Rod would come to Board Meetings with 12 pages of budget numbers or projections that he’d been working on separately from everybody else and they were insanely detailed and insightful.
And Rod danced and sang all the time in the shop. It lightened the mood and it was a joy to witness a happy human. And I don’t know how many times I washed my hands at the utility sink and saw the “First the dishes and then the revolution” sign he posted. Or his tribute to the Jordyn Clip plaque. Rod was a very serious human but his humor was sharp yet subtle and so frickin’ clever…if I ever got Rod to laugh I felt that I had done at least one thing right for the day. But, really, Rod laughed all the time; he understood there was work to do and he was willing to go all in but there was always a positivity to it, there was a huge need for him to connect to people and to do this hard work by making the mood light, by laughing, by smiling and singing.
I know Rod wasn’t around the second half of last year, not because I didn’t see him but because the atmosphere had changed, the energy had changed. Now, to be clear, Rod was not our only volunteer, and I know John Elmblad and Greg Tallerico and Phil Gee and a host of others really energize the back of the shop and leave an invaluable mark whenever they’re around. But we all knew when Rod was around. We, the staff especially, could relax a bit because Rod had it covered in the programs and volunteer work area. He freed up everyone else so they could focus on their projects. He knew his role, he knew he was most valuable supporting everyone else and making sure they had what they needed to be successful. I know everyone who spent time working with him felt he was always trying to get it right, he was always striving to be efficient without sacrificing true knowledge, he was trying to share his idea of learning onto everyone else because learning was the most important thing to Rod. I could see it in everything he did. We all find different ways to motivate ourselves but Rod loved to learn, he loved to use his fantastic brain to solve issues and he loved to share those results with Bikes Together. Rod changed us for the better. He was willing to sacrifice so much simply to make Bikes Together more impactful to more people. It is his biggest gift to us and he is a human being I will never ever forget as long as I live.
The download I added to this email was from February 11th of 2018, the day of our volunteer party AKA “We Survived 2017 Somehow.” Rod and Lee Ann had gotten together to perform a song, “Danny’s Song “by Kenny Loggins as tribute to that. As usual Rod sang the loudest and the best.
Much love and much warmth to my wonderful Bikes Together community,