OOIDA Board Member William G. Rode, 82, died Monday, Feb. 1, of natural causes. It was unexpected and happened as he was working on one of his endless outdoor chores at the family ranch on the Boise River in Eagle, Idaho.
Bill is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary, as well as their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was an active member of his community, a longtime leader in his local 4-H Club, a recognized cowboy poet and career truck driver.
Bill was always proud to say that cowboyin’ and truck drivin’ was his lifestyle. After high school he worked for the U.S. Forestry Service, packing mules and clearing trails in primitive areas of Idaho, sometimes working as a firefighter. He and his young wife lived in a cabin on the Salmon River in the wilderness until 1953. He enlisted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and served as a combat engineer in Germany until 1955. After returning to Idaho, he worked again for the U.S. Forestry Service. In 1962, seeking better employment and an easier life for Mary and himself, he tried being a guide on an Idaho ranch, but in 1964 found his true calling as a professional trucker.
He bought his first truck in 1979. He became a member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in 1988, and in 1992 was elected to the Board of Directors. After nearly 40 years in the industry, he sold his truck and trailer and hauled sand, gravel and dirt locally until his retirement. He remained active in trucking as treasurer of OOIDA, chairman of the Finance Committee, and chairman of the Association’s Scholarship Committee. He traveled frequently on behalf of the Association – to meetings, to the statehouse in Boise to represent truckers, and to many trucking events on behalf of OOIDA. He was a familiar face at truck shows and rarely missed the opportunity to talk about OOIDA and the value of representation.
His trucking perspective and old-school road wisdoms will be missed by the industry to which he devoted more than four decades of his life. He never tired of talking about trucking. He was deeply involved in today’s issues, and his razor-sharp memory came in handy when he was telling you about running in the “wild, wild West” years ago. He’d talk about the old Husky Truck Stop, Gay Johnson’s, and the old Diamond Horseshoe truck stop. He had stories of running across Wyoming on Highway 30 through Medicine Bow, as the highway over Elk Mountain wasn’t there yet. He liked to remember the old ways and the old truck companies and he’d smile about Burma Shave signs, Green Stamps and the Monfort lane.
The man known as “Wild Bill” Rode (pronounced Ro-dee) is being remembered this week by his friends in trucking.
Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA, has known Bill since the late 1980s. “He was one of the longest serving members of the Board of Directors – a force within the Association – and provided leadership in every task, especially his devotion to building the OOIDA Mary Johnston Scholarship Fund. He was passionate about it and unstoppable in his supervision of the fund that has helped so many OOIDA kids further their education. His compassion, fight and drive were unmatchable.”
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer remembers Bill as a good man, a great friend, and a constant pleasure to be around.
“He was comfortable and at ease in every surrounding from talking with lawmakers in D.C. or Boise, or inspectors at CVSA meetings or other drivers at the local coffee shop,” said Todd. “The one and only time I remember him getting hot under the collar at a meeting was in response to a big carrier rep trashing on the importance of drivers. He didn’t put up with that crap.”
Bill would have been 83 in April, but his boot-scootin’ demeanor defied his age. Fellow Board Member Mark Elrod, Peru, Ind., said, “I have many fond memories of Bill but one that is especially exclusive to him is he is the only fella I’ve met that could two-step to Led Zeppelin and make it work.”
Johanne Couture, Brockville, Ontario, also served with Bill on the OOIDA Board. “ I will always cherish his memory, and the memories he has left us all, the jokes he took great pleasure in telling, the little dance moves to display his tip-top physical health, the suspenders and the radiant smile.”
Tilden Curl, Olympia, Wash., is another who served with Bill on the OOIDA Board. He and his wife, Lesli, said “You can’t think of Bill without remembering his energetic spirit and his love of entertaining those around him. Heaven received a new burst of energy and a great man.”
Memorial services will be held Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, at Bowman Funeral Parlor, Garden City, Idaho. The family has suggested contributions to the OOIDA Mary Johnston Scholarship Fund in remembrance.
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