Obituaries » Rodney Gene Adams

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Rodney Gene Adams

February 23, 1948 - January 28, 2022

U.S. Veteran

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In Vancouver, Washington, February 23, 1948, Rodney Gene Adams was born in a terrible storm that almost took his father’s life out on the Columbia River. He grew up in Vancouver; lived in Scottsdale,  Arizona for a while and then moved to Virginia 40 or more years ago.

A tall, lanky character, Rod Adams was a walking study of contradictions. He was a curmudgeon and an encouraging teacher, a grump and a joker, a fighter and a flirt. He told tall tales and embellished true ones; this Pisces was a Big Fish. He filled a room when he entered and entertained everyone. Several friends have commented he was larger than life. Yet he could slump over a painting with a 00 brush, sound escaping  from high volume iPod earbuds, and ignore the world.

As a young child he was in hospital often, even in an iron lung. His grandfather brought him art supplies to keep him occupied. That led him eventually to art as a 15-year occupation as a Yellow Pages illustrator, as well as a watercolorist and watercolor instructor.

He was both proud of his art and harshly critical of it. He favored photography and watercolor, but he appreciated much fine art, except those he called “paint-slingers.”

He is known for his intricately, detailed watercolor paintings; his favored palette of neutral shades, especially browns, deep oranges and reds of his favorite subjects–rusty trucks, red rock and cowboys.

Earlier in his life he was an avid bicyclist who traveled everywhere on his bike (or in his beloved Mini Cooper). Later came motorcycles.  He loved riding his motorcycle, especially with his three musketeers. Trips across country with “the guys” excited him. And meeting those guys (and various others) for coffee in the afternoon at the Shell  or at the Forks (later, Huddle House) for breakfast was routine.

He had numerous interests and projects:  collecting thermoses,  flying one of his drones, tying flies, fly-fishing, making a Christmas tree from thousands of toothpicks (not completed), watching movies, writing short stories and an unfinished novel, watching British television mysteries and history on PBS, reading Smithsonian and baking delicious loaves of bread.

He disliked bullies all his life and defended those being bullied. Incidents range from high school to Sturgis a couple of years ago.

He was like a dad to his stepchildren and was Pop-Pops to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They can tell you stories of trucking, fishing, camping by Jennings Creek, playing harmonicas, more recently playing mandolin and so much more.

From a sickly child who loved Davy Crockett, he grew to a teenager who loved sports– running track, playing tennis, participating in team sports. Directly from high school in 1966, not having a clue what to do, he joined the Marines as Private E-1, next stop was Vietnam–three tours of duty—with the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions. He earned:  National Defense Service Medal, Vietnamese Service Medal with 3 stars, Vietnamese Campaign Medal with 60–, Presidential Unit Citation with 1 star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with palm and frame, Good Conduct Medal First Award, M-16 Markmanship Badge and should have the Vietnamese Civil Actions Award and the Naval Meritorius Unit Citation, unit awards. He  left the service as Corporal E-4 in 1970.

He was immensely proud of his dad’s career as a River Pilot on the Columbia River. Rod  worked a short while as a deck hand on a tugboat. Also he worked for a couple of years as a jeweler and retained an appreciation for fine wristwatches.

He suggested his obituary should begin, “Gee whiz.I smoked for over 50 years, 2 to 3 sometimes 4 packs a day; now how did I end up on this page?”

He was generous and kind.  He said, “I tried to be helpful to anyone who needed it, to leave something behind…to have made a difference.”  He wanted to leave a legacy, to have  contributed to the community. He certainly did that. The Rod Adams  Scholarship at the Bower Center for  the Arts hopefully will continue his legacy.

On January 28, 2022 at Lynchburg General, as Rod wrote, “I reached my expiration date.” He fought hard, but lost a tough, painful battle with lung cancer.

He maintained a sense of humor to the end. As he told his friends:

“When you’re alone and feel a tapping on your shoulder, but no one is there, don’t think twice, it’s me.”

Rod’s ashes will be shared with family and some will be buried in the Bays section of  Mt.Olivet Methodist cemetery.

Those wishing to honor his memory may donate to the Bower Center for the Arts, [memo: Rod Adams scholarship fund]  305 N.Bridge Street, Bedford, VA 24523.   (Phone : 540-586-4235)

A Celebration of his Life will be held Saturday, June 18. 2022 at 11 a.m. in the Sara Braaten Gallery of the Bower Center for the Arts, address above.

Arrangements by Tharp Funeral Home and Crematory Bedford.


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