Weldon Eric Rodenhiser, 83, of Dartmouth NS, died unexpectedly at home on June 21, less than two months after his beloved wife, Patricia Jean Rodenhiser, passed away. They were just shy of their 60th wedding anniversary.
Weldon was a quiet and private man, attributable perhaps to his upbringing as an only child on Big Tancook Island, a fishing and (back then) farming community off Nova Scotia’s South Shore. But he was also kind and charming in his own way. He was quick to smile and gently tease his female friends, relatives and in-laws.
Weldon left Big Tancook in his late teens to move to Halifax. He took a job with the Nova Scotia Department of Highways at the age of 17 and worked his way to the position of chief clerk of accounts. It was there that he met a young Patricia Blades, and they began dating. She was from a farming family in Chaswood, near Middle Musquodoboit, and had 14 brothers and sisters. They married in 1962.
Weldon was active in recreational bowling, golf and softball in those days, and also played guitar, fiddle/violin and mandolin. Those pastimes took a backseat after he and Pat began their family, welcoming sons David, Andrew and Adam. Pat became a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer, while Weldon focused on being the family breadwinner, at times taking on evening and weekend work pumping gas when they needed extra cash. They raised their family in a home Weldon built with Pat’s eldest brother, Ralph. For many years, it was the bright red house at the top of the hill.
Weldon and Pat weren’t disciplinarians and didn’t force expectations upon their sons, giving them space to find their own way and be themselves. They provided limitless support and limited direction. Family trips included Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick a couple of times, and Maine once, but otherwise focused on exploring Nova Scotia. The Balmoral Grist Mill was visited a baffling number of times. Summer weekends most often saw the family station wagon pointed toward Chaswood or Chester (to catch the ferry to Big Tancook.)
Weldon loved taking his sons fishing. His favourite places to cast a line were the Musquodoboit River at the back of Pat’s brother Alvin Blades’ property in Elderbank for trout, and Grand Lake in Laurie Park for salmon. They didn’t always catch dinner, but they always cherished their time together.
Life changed for the family in December 1983, when Weldon suffered a debilitating heart attack at home. David and Andrew were in high school and Adam was still in elementary. At one point, doctors didn’t expect Weldon to survive the night, but he did – for more than 38 years. It was fortunate that Weldon had chosen a career with the provincial civil service because his long term disability benefits provided for the family when he could no longer work. He had to leave after 30 years with the government.
Weldon continued to lead the family and supported Pat in her passion as volunteer coordinator for the East Dartmouth Christian Food Bank, a role she served for 28 years. Weldon handled the accounting and often picked up grocery purchases and donations for the food bank, and even bought a used pickup truck when the food deliveries took their toll on his car’s suspension. His talent with numbers continued to be in high demand among Big Tancook fishermen at tax time, and the house was filled with lobster each year in gratitude for his work.
For hobbies, Weldon’s interests turned to a stamp collection he had started as a young man, and making homemade fruit wine, which he fermented in large quantities but rarely drank. He got on a roll with both: the stamp collection eventually took over a former bedroom and his wine production consumed a room in the basement. He enjoyed old cowboy and war movies; anything with John Wayne, or Clint Eastwood in a pinch. He rooted for the Blue Jays and Leafs through good times and bad – mostly bad with the Leafs – and he was content to spend an afternoon watching golf or NASCAR, but he would never consider spending the money to attend a professional sporting event in person. He was generous to those around him, but tight with a buck when it came to himself. A steady stream of Sudoku and crossword puzzles kept his mind as sharp as a man half his age.
Weldon also developed a soft spot for cats. Blackie was the family’s first pet, and years later, he doted over Missy and then Scamper. Weldon was also one for the birds. There were budgies for a while, Blue and Yellow, and their inevitable son Green, all creatively named by their colour blind owner. At one point, Weldon was feeding so many ducks that hundreds would flock to his yard each day, looking for a free meal. He got profiled in the local community newspaper and on the Weather Network for that, but had to give it up once his fowl friends destroyed the back lawn. In the days before his death, Weldon was carefully monitoring and tending to a hummingbird feeder outside the living room window, eagerly awaiting the tiny birds’ annual return.
Despite the physical limitations brought on by his heart attack, Weldon was caregiver to his father, then his mother, and eventually his wife, Pat, as their health declined. He was at Pat’s side as she passed.
Weldon’s greatest pride was his grandsons Max and Henry. He loved their visits and watching them grow. He was excited by every update on how they were doing at school, how Max’s football team was doing, and what Henry’s latest interests and exploits were – dinosaurs, outer space, or dancing the floss in Fortnite victory.
In addition to Henry and Max, Weldon is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law David & Angela, Andrew & Mimi, and Adam & Shannon. He was predeceased by his parents David Zenas and Clara Maude Rodenhiser. A celebration of Weldon and Pat’s lives will be held Sunday, July 17, 1 PM, at Woodlawn United Church Hall, Dartmouth. Both have been cremated and will be interred Monday, July 18, 10 AM, at Dartmouth Memorial Gardens. Memorial donations may be made to the East Dartmouth Christian Food Bank or charity of choice.