Edward A. Rodgers
COCOA BEACH, FL – Retired U.S. Maritime Rear Adm. Edward ‘Ted’ Rodgers, U.S. Naval Academy 1940 graduate, and former Superintendent of the Maine Maritime Academy, died in Cocoa Beach, FL, on February 18th following a brief illness after an incredible life of devotion, faith and service to country, church and family. He was 98.
Edward Rodgers graduated from Fall River’s Durfee High School in 1934 and studied chemistry at Durfee Technical Institute. At age 18, after seeing the iconic movie “Shipmates Forever” with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, he thought ‘he might like to join the Navy and see a little of the world.’ With this goal in mind, Ted – who admitted he was not a very good student – crammed for three months, applied and was admitted to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. He graduated in 1940 with the rank of Ensign and graduated from flight school as a naval aviator. In early 1941, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the Pacific. On December 2nd, as the Lexington’s Duty Officer, Ted was summoned to Pacific Fleet Headquarters, instructed to load the carrier with a Marine Air Group, and ship out for Midway Island. They sailed from Pearl Harbor Dec 5th. Two days later, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the declaration of war with new orders, the Lexington went hunting for Japanese targets for a week. Upon return to Hawaii a week later Ted found the battleship Utah, sunk in Lexington’s’ berth. Altogether, 59 graduates of the Class of ’40 would perish during World War II; the most deaths for any academy class in any war.
Following the war, Ted Rodgers continued on as a naval aviator for 20 years. He became Commanding Officer, Naval Air Development Unit of the Weymouth Naval Air Station in Massachusetts and during that time received both a BA and MA of Science in Aviation Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A highlight of Ted’s aviation career was his participation in testing the Navy’s secret Skyhook personnel rescue project. Through test piloting, Rodgers helped to realize the rescue system fitted to a Lockheed P2V aircraft, after which the technology was adapted for various uses, including for rescuing U.S. personnel from behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War.
In 1962, he was appointed Professor of Naval Science at Harvard where he was also Head of the NROTC. Ted retired after 28 years of service at the rank of Navy Captain in 1964. He immediately was appointed Superintendent of the Maine Maritime Academy with the rank of Rear Admiral in the Merchant Service. His travels took him to Russia, Africa, China, all of Europe and South America. In 1984, after helping to rebuild Maine Maritime into one of the elite world-wide maritime service academies, he retired to spend time with his wife Marguerite, his family and friends.
Born June 12, 1917 in Fall River, MA to Thomas Albert Rodgers and Ella Walsh Rodgers, Ted was one of three brothers, including Thomas and William, each of whom lived long, healthy lives well into their 90’s. His mother Ella, who lived to age 101, was a devout Catholic, an advocate and strong guide for the whole family. At an early age Ted became a devoted and faithful life-long member of the Catholic Church and a member of the Adoration of Our Blessed Mother, to whom he prayed regularly. Ted believed Mary was a protector of him throughout his life including perilous flying missions during the Second World War. He remained an active member of Our Savior’s Catholic Church in Cocoa Beach, FL and St Vincent de Paul Church in Bucksport, MA.
He fell in love with and, after the briefest of courtships, wedded Marguerite Veronica Romero in 1943. Married for 70 years, she predeceased Ted in 2012 after battling Alzheimer’s. Ted was a dedicated caregiver of Marguerite for nearly a decade. They are survived by five children, Carolyn Henderson and her husband William, Edward A. Jr. (Tony) and wife Mary Jane, Mary Anne Rodgers, Claire Stewart, and Marguerite (Meg) Rodgers and her husband James Timberlake, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
After leaving Maine Maritime, during the past 30 years, Ted Rodgers was a volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Meals on Wheels in Cocoa Beach, and tutored advanced math at Our Savior’s Catholic School. Having loved squash and racquet ball in early years, he played a competitive game of tennis until this past year, often organizing, and beating, his friends and family in matches. He loved to swim daily even in the chilly waters of Lake Alamoosook, ME. Maintaining his Naval Academy friendships, from 1964 and onward, he organized and hosted Class of 40 reunions every year at the Maine Maritime Academy and then his home in Orland, ME. He celebrated his 75th reunion last year at Annapolis, where he was one of two alumni out of the surviving class able to attend. He and Marguerite remained lifelong friends with the Navy families with whom they were stationed over the years.
A viewing will be held at Beckman-Williamson on Sunday February 21, 2016 from 2 to 5 pm. Services will be Monday, February 22, 2016 at Our Savior’s Catholic Church in Cocoa Beach, FL. Internment at the United States Naval Academy columbarium, along with Marguerite, is scheduled for the spring. Condolences can be sent to the Rodgers family at 3611 South Banana River Blvd, Apt CE 501, Cocoa Beach FL 32931. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Cocoa Beach, the Brevard Humane Society, 1020 Cox Road, Cocoa, FL or the K9 Rescue of Virginia, 16319 Hampton Summit Circle, Chesterfield VA. You may sign Ted’s guest book at www.beckman-williamson.com