Celebrating the life of Phillip Earl Rodriguez
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Philip Earl Rodriguez, Sr., longtime Washington resident, died September 21st at his home outside Spokane, WA from complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 76 years old.
Phil was an enthusiastic RVer. He and his wife, Barbara, visited 47 of the contiguous US states plus made an epic trip to Alaska and the Arctic Circle in their motor home. His expertise led him to a launch an advice website that helped steer newcomers through the challenges of motor home ownership.
An enthusiastic car driver, Phil enjoyed cars and car racing and drove his Dodge Super Bee to the 1990 AHRA World Finals in Spokane, WA, where he won the Class Championship. After his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, he acquired his dream car: a Corvette Stingray. He liked connecting with people around the world via Ham Radio and was a member of the American Radio Relay League. His call sign was N7PHL.
While his mother was alive, he and Barbara made regular trips back to Louisiana. He loved good cooking including Cajun and Thai – but most appreciated a home-cooked meal. A convivial host and friendly neighbor, Phil enjoyed visits from family and friends and served as his neighborhood’s community coordinator for years. In that capacity he made sure everyone contributed to road repair and snow removal until he and the neighborhood members managed to get the county to take ownership of the road. Before his death, he had multiple bouts with cancer and was treated at the City of Hope, UCLA, and in Spokane. He was unfailingly determined, courageous, and kept a sense of humor throughout.
Born March 22, 1946, in Natchitoches, Louisiana, to Gradie Mitcham and Earl Edward Rodriguez. Phil liked to say he “escaped” Louisiana when he was 17 by enlisting in the US Air Force. He served as a fuel specialist in Thailand during the Vietnam War and during his years of service was stationed in Oklahoma, Alaska, and Arizona. His final posting was Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana where he worked on the Minuteman missile program. He retired from active duty on September 30, 1984 with a Meritorious Service Medal and several other commendations.
After retiring, Phil joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the Safety and Risk Management Division in Florida where he was Safety Manager for Launch Pads A and B and oversaw 35 successful space shuttle launches.While at NASA, he also earned a Bachelor of Science/Safety Engineering from Kennedy Western University.
He continued his safety career in California as Safety Manager at Dryden Flight Research Center and Director of Safety and Chief of System Safety at the Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA until his retirement in 2008.
Along with his wife, Barbara whom he married on December 22, 1989 in Great Falls, MT, his survivors include two children from his first marriage, Amy Burk Oster (married to Chad) and Phil Rodriguez Jr. (married to Angel), and two step-children Derek Stordahl (married to Margaret “Jody”) and Darren Stordahl (married to Kim). Surviving grandchildren are Rahm, Jaemon and Talia Burk, as well as Aaron and Emily Rodriguez. Step-grandchildren are Lucy, Abby, Oliver, & Calvin Stordahl. Other surviving relatives include his half-brother Richard Middleton, Gina Bolan (surviving spouse of David Bolan) as well as his first wife, Charlene Guidry and extended family. He was pre-deceased by his parents, his step-father Elton Middleton, his half brother David Bolan as well as his biological father Robert Bolan and half-brother Ralph Middleton.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Spokane on October 15th at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, 4340 W. Whistalks Way, at 2:00 p.m.
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