From Pioneer Stock: Nancy Rodman lives in two worlds


Colleen Slater, KP News

Nancy Rodman has a home next door to the original house her Rodman grandparents built when they came to Vaughn in 1900. She doesn’t know how much land her grandparents owned, but says, “I think it was half of this side of the (Vaughn) Bay!”

Nancy Rodman with her father, F. Howard Rodman, in 1972. Photo courtesy Nancy Rodman

Her grandfather died within a few years of his arrival, leaving his wife, Clara, with four young children to raise.

“She was a staunch German. She died when I was 7. I can’t remember her face, but she was a love of a woman,” says Rodman.

“She cooked on an old wood stove, used heated flat-irons to iron, and made just wonderful food,” including bread puddings, breads and cookies. Grandma Clara had an orchard of apples and cherries, a big garden, and a large apple cellar.

The bulk of the property was sold, piece by piece. Many local landowners on the south side of the bay have Clara Rodman’s name on their deed to tidelands.

Nancy Rodman, daughter of Fredrick Howard Rodman, better known as Howard, spent her early years in Tacoma. Every summer, they stayed with her grandmother. Once Rodman and her brother, Howard, graduated from high school, her father moved to Vaughn. F. Howard had a huckleberry business in Tacoma for many years, and invented a berry-stripping machine.

Helen, the oldest child of Clara, lived in Tacoma with her husband, Ernie Miller. Marjorie, child No. 3 (affectionately called Mudge), and her husband, Charlie Powell, lived on the other side of Nancy’s current home for many years. Dewey, the youngest, lived most of his life in Vaughn.

“Uncle Dewey was the fun one,” Rodman says, noting the rest of the family was quite serious. They did enjoy family gatherings and singing together. There was a lot of musical talent in the family.

Rodman’s former husband, Mario, a noted musician, composed “The Icy Mountains” at the old piano in the original Rodman home.

When Rodman’s father died at the age of 82, she and her brother split the property on Vaughn Bay. He got the old house, now owned by his adult children. She had her piece cleared, moved in a manufactured home, and immediately set about to change it, inside and out, into a comfortable place with her own imprint on it.

“I come here and spend my vacation working,” Rodman says, with an obvious pride in what she’s accomplished. Shrubs, including roses and hydrangeas, and many flowering plants adorn the multiple decks and grounds.

A gazebo on the deck nearest the water is her place to relax with a good book. For many years, she had a local companion whenever she went down there. A large seal flopped onto the deck, rocked on his tummy, and barked at her. Rodman approached, and barked in return. She called him Sammy. When she stood up to leave, he returned to the water. Sammy hasn’t been around for several years now.

Rodman, a former film and television actress, is now an agent in Mexico City. Her clients include some of the top Mexican film stars.

She never had children of her own, but raised Pedro, a foster son, from birth. His daughter, a large-eyed beauty, is, of course, the prettiest and most special grandchild there ever was.

Fourth of July picnics, as well as other family gatherings, were standard procedure, even before Rodman was born. She continues the tradition, and this year, had about 100 Rodman relatives enjoying her decks and gardens. She takes lots of pictures, and loves watching and snapping the youngest members of the clan.

Rodman may not spend a lot of time at Vaughn, but it’s the home with ties to her family and her roots, both important to her.