Former teacher had zest for life and people

Doug Boock
Herb Rodgers lived a full life before dying recently. He was a Galva teacher, extensive traveller and inventor, among other things.

Herb Rodgers got a lot out of life. He squeezed it for all it was worth.

“Remember the “My Most Unforgettable Character?” stories in the Reader’s Digest?’” asked Dale Collis on Sept. 26. “Herb was one of those kinds of guys. He never ceased to amazed me. He was always do something – travelling here, doing this, doing that.”

“How do you explain this man?” Jason Bates agreed. “In terms of personality, it’s hard for me to tell you everything.”

Rodgers – whose life credits include teaching in Galva schools for 35 years, visiting all 50 states, spending a summer in Europe in a Volkswagen van and mapping every residence in Galva – died Sept. 23. He was 77.

“Obviously, when I was in fifth grade, I didn’t know how many dimensions there were to this guy,” said Art Goodrich, taught by Rodgers at Lincoln School in 1963.

But Goodrich said he and other students missed Rodgers when he was moved to a cross-town school.

“I’ll tell you what, we were shattered when he left Lincoln School to go over to F.U. White,” said Goodrich, now of Woodhull.

Inquisitive – about people and many other things – Rodgers was a curious inventor at heart. That led him to often think outside the box in his teaching, coming up with interesting projects to capture students’ attention.

“Mr. Rodgers was my sixth grade teacher at F.U. White School when I was 11,” said Deb Miles of Galva. “That school year was an incredible, memorable year for me. Mr. Rodgers was always active and full of thoughts and new ideas . . . a good teacher.”

His classes flew kites, built igloos, buried time capsules and made ice cream, among other things.

“His favorite thing to do was to start conversations with us,” said Bates, taught by Rodgers in sixth grade. “Yes, we covered the subject but what he really wanted was to take a topic and discuss it to get our opinions. It was not like he was up there as a dictator. He wanted us to feel that we have a voice, that our opinion mattered.”

Like him or not, Rodgers made his mark on others.

“He was one of these teachers, who, no matter what you thought about him, he definitely left an impression on you,” Bates said. “Teaching was definitely his calling.”

Son of a Methodist minister, Rodgers’ family moved often during his childhood, with his father being appointed to several different pastorates. That taught Rodgers to make friends quickly, and to value relationships. He did that throughout life. After retiring, he maintained an incredible list of names of students he taught through his three-plus decades – and kept tabs with many of them.

His love for exploring and history led him to follow the steps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Oregon Trail and the Alaskan Highway. His criss-crossing across the United States was mostly done on two-lane highways and back roads – all the better to see life as it really was.

He also did things like hiking up mountains, canoeing rivers and streams, peering into a volcano crater in Hawaii and walking on a glacier in Alaska. His curiosity and fascination with sites and links to the past propelled him.

Rodgers also delighted local children by building and maintaining the Galva community ice skating rink for over 35 years, and promoted frisbee golf in Wiley Park.

In 1995, the Galva Chamber of Commerce named Rodgers its Citizen of the Year.