Amery icon will turn 75 Sunday
Every community has a person who causes others to smile when they see them devoting the best of themselves to the town. Amery is fortunate enough to have a few, but a birthday wish for its most famous has many hoping Rodney Eklund spends the day celebrating-not just working when he turns 75 October 8.
Rodney was born October 8, 1948 to Russell and Augusta Eklund. He has many special memories from his earlier years growing up in Amery on Broadway with his Daddy, Mama and brother Jerry.
Rodney enjoyed helping his Mama pick strawberries from her backyard patch by the Apple River. He also loved it when Mama would bring him swimming at the Amery Beach, where he learned to swim, and he would see lifeguard Pat Canham.
Rodney’s Daddy was a hard worker and taught Rodney how to wash windows, mop floors, shovel snow, mow lawns and clean carpets.
Daddy knew along with working hard, it was important to have fun too. Daddy took Rodney fishing, golfing and they played baseball in the neighborhood.
One of Rodney’s other special annual activities with Daddy was Deer Camp. Eric Elkin said, “Rodney started coming to Douglas Camp with his father Russell. Russ was a great friend of my grandfather Emmett Gorres. I bought a share from Emmett so I could be a part of the camp. When Russell was gone it became our responsibility to get Rodney up to the camp every deer hunting season. Rodney loved being outside and walking with whoever would take him hunting. He was the best deer dragger in the camp, although he tended to go in straight lines through the thickest brush on the way back to camp. Rodney also made sure there were very few leftovers. I think Rodney's favorite thing at deer camp was making popcorn on Saturday night. He made sure that everyone had plenty of hot buttered popcorn, his favorite. I think that this was a tradition that he did with Russell, so it was special to Rodney.”
Phyllis Knutson has been a friend and caretaker to Rodney for quite a few years. She said even after Rodney stopped attending Deer Camp, he still enjoyed sending cookies for them to take with them.
Elkin would like to wish Rodney a very Happy Birthday.
Rodney attended Polk County Special Education School. He does a really great job at reading and writing many things. Knutson said it is important for people to know that Rodney really does understand everything. “We are the ones who have a hard time understanding Rodney,” she said. Phyllis has enjoyed spending time with Rodney and learning more about his life from him. They have had many conversations while she has taken him to appointments and shopping. Rodney enjoys these short trips, but he has enjoyed some big trips over the years too.
Rodney traveled with his Daddy to visit Jerry in Florida many years ago and church friends, the Clarks, once took Rodney with them on a trip to Washington D.C. They dropped Rodney off at the National Mall and told him they would be back to get him at 6 p.m. He spent the day among the memorials by himself and was back to the meeting location at 6 p.m. sharp to meet his friends. On the way home, they even ventured into Canada so Rodney could say he had travelled internationally.
Rodney listens to WPCA radio every day and reads everything he can, especially books on healthy living. Kori Nelson, a friend and caretaker of Rodney said, “He reads every label when he is out grocery shopping and is dedicated to eating two apples each day and drinking six glasses of water (along with his GIANT thermos of coffee.)”
Becky Johnson-Whitten said, “Rodney has been a long-time customer, starting with Better Self Wellness and now Bee Well Nutrition. He has been faithful in getting his fiber, aloe, prebiotic water and always takes time to share information from his various health books, magazines and handwritten notes. He takes great pride in staying healthy, making sure he reads nutrition labels and incorporating healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains in his diet. He walks and rides bike religiously. He makes sure to point out to me that he wears his Herbalife shirt when he stops in the shop. He is a pretty big deal!”
She added, “Happiest of birthdays to YOU, Rodney! You've been a great inspiration, and friendly face. Wishing you many, many more!”
Scott Schmid, Manager at Marathon (former Freedom Valu Center) said he can hardly believe what a hard worker Rodney is and what a fantastic job Rodney does each and every time he is put to task. He hopes Rodney has a great birthday and eats plenty of cake.
Rodney is well known for being a hard worker, but that is not his only great quality.
Nelson shared Rodney is a gentleman, opening doors for ladies and offers to share what he has at any opportunity.
Editor of the Amery Free Press April Ziemer would like to add she believes Rodney’s greatest qualities are his intelligence and his sense of humor. “Rodney, I know how smart you are and I love it when you come in and show me math problems, such as how you add 25 to 2023, which will equal 2048, so you know you will be 100 because you were born in 1948. I cannot wait to throw you a huge 100th birthday party! I also love your sense of humor, like when you steal my husband Josh’s seat at church. I hope your 75th year is filled with nothing but friendships, laughter and great memories,” she said.
Each Sunday, Rodney first listens to a church service on the radio, he next attends a service (bike weather permitting), at First Lutheran and then at New Life Community Church.
Rodney had been devoted to the Amery Community his entire life. Former Chief of Police Tom Marson shared, “I remember Rodney over the years while working for the Amery Police Department and involved in Bicycle Safety. Whenever I had contact with Rodney, he would remind me that he was wearing bright clothing and a bicycle helmet for safety, this continues to this date.”
Marson said a few years back their police “Kops and Kids” organization thought it would be a great idea to buy Rodney a 3-wheel bicycle which they thought would make it easier and safer for him. “On the day we wanted to give it to him we invited the Amery Free Press to the police department to see the event. Rodney had a hard time getting on the bicycle and when starting to ride it he turned sharply, and he and the bicycle tipped over. That ended the idea of the bicycle for Rodney as he had no interest after that,” Marson said, “It has been enjoyable over the years seeing how the community has looked after and treated Rodney, excluding those few that have stolen items from him at various times over the years which angered the whole community.”
Marson’s wife LeAnn added, “Back in the late 70’s, I will never forget Rodney coming into Waynes Café when I was a waitress there. He would always sit on the same stool/place whenever he came in. He was always there for morning coffee, lunch and afternoon coffee only with a cookie each time. If the café was out of cookies, that was not acceptable in Rodney’s eyes. Rodney always said thank you when he was served. Wayne Greenly (the owner) was always so generous and never charged Rodney for his coffee/cookie or meal.”
She said, “We both want to wish Rodney the best Birthday this year that he could ever have. If anyone deserves to be recognized on their birthday, it would be Rodney. Happy Birthday!”
LeAnn feels Amery is just not Amery without seeing Rodney riding or pushing his bike through the rain and snow no matter how hard it is coming down. There is no doubt the rest of the town agrees and that surely Amery wouldn’t be Amery if Rodney Eklund wouldn’t have brightened the world October 8, 1948.
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