I don't post every Name-Dropper article that comes from The Record because some are too town-specific and known only to a relatively small amount of County residents, but I'm posting this one because it's from the town I was born in and grew up in and I had an encounter with this man at a young age that left a good impression that fits in exactly with the article's content.http://www.northjersey.com/news/the-name-dropper-richard-rodda-community-center-in-teaneck-1.1619942
From the mid-1950s to the early-1960s, I and all my friends participated in a town-wide summer parks program. My street - Cumberland Avenue - was the only street in town with a park at either end of it. When I was too young to cross Garrison Avenue by myself, I had to go to Phelps Park, which was still kind of swampy (and smelled like it) with WAY too many dragonflies and other bugs.
As soon as I was old enough, I switched to Sagamore Park at the other end of my four-block street.
Sagamore had a fountain for cooling off under and lots of games, including my favorite, zell ball.............anybody remember that?. Every park had a softball team and every team got to play a game in every other park in town. My team played on the same Sagamore field where I would later play Little League ball.
Sagamore had one structure - an odd building that was half two-ended, open-air shelter and half storage for all the baseball bats/balls, horseshoes, paddles and whatever other recreational equipment the program provided every summer. The storage room had an opening at a second-story level that kids used to try to throw things through after park hours.
Someone threw a ball I owned through it and I was not happy. I called the recreation department and they said they'd send someone over to unlock the room right away.
I expected some grouchy laborer, but it was the boss - Dick Rodda. He didn't ask why we were there after park hours. He simply unlocked the door and I retrieved my ball.
He could not have been nicer. He made a kid very happy that day and I've never forgotten that simple kindness from over a half-century ago.
As I grew up, I just kept reading/hearing about the nice things he did for the people of Teaneck.
"How can I help?" truly was his mantra.