It is altogether fitting that Jean Rodman’s last contribution to the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy was the story on the facing page, and that its last line was, “Last month I bought another canoe.” That’s the way she was. She died with her boots on, or at least nearby, close enough that she could quickly grab them and head out for the next adventure.
She wrote (or at least dictated) those words just a few days before she died. Even then she was as she always had been, anxious to see what was around the next bend.
Her roots with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy ran deep. Although nobody kept an attendance list at the very first meeting, she was probably there. By that time she and her husband Sayre were already canoeing legends. She served on the Board for many years, all the way until she took senior status in 2010. Senior status Board members may come to the meetings (which Jean did) and occasionally toss historical perspective and other pearls of wisdom into the discussion. She accomplished this with gusto.
She was there for both the beginning and recent (but not the end) of our advocacy for free flowing rivers. She was a member of our very first committee, the Scenic River Committee; the October, 2017, issue of The Highlands Voice has a picture of her paddling the Blackwater River, one of the outings for our 50thAnniversary celebration.
She will be remembered for her cheery face and bright laugh and sharp mind as well as her contributions to WVHC Board meetings. She was a champion and an exemplary person. She was a kind woman in spirit and it showed through on her face.
Jean was born in 1930. She passed on Sunday, October 28, 2018.
Born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Jean and her younger sister, the late Marion (Winne) Birmingham, grew up and lived for many years in Coraopolis and Moon Township with their parents Harris B. and Marie (Mollenkopf) Winne. Surviving family includes daughters, Elizabeth “Buff” Rodman of Oakmont and Ann (Colleen Eldred) Rodman of Gardiner, MT; grandchildren, Benjamin and Isabel Rodman; and numerous nieces, nephews, and in-laws.
Jean graduated from Moon Township High School (1948), and Slippery Rock State Teacher’s College (1952). After a few years teaching High School Physical Education and Science, she met Sayre and they set out to enjoy life and raise a family together, exploring wild places through rock-climbing, mountaineering, caving, hiking, skiing, and boating. An early pioneer of eastern white-water rafting, Jean was one of the group of boaters making first descents on the Youghiogheny, Cheat, and Gauley rivers.
Later in life, the transition from raft to canoe allowed Jean to continue camping and running rivers into her eighties. She was a founding member of the Pittsburgh Climbers, served on the board of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, former Commodore of the Sylvan Canoe Club, past President of the Oakmont Garden Club, and a member of the Oakmont Women’s Club. Jean was also an accomplished photographer, a voracious reader, especially mysteries, and she loved her gardens, cats, and Saturday yard sales.
A celebration of Jean’s life will be planned for a later date.