The city of San Clemente lost a beloved community figure earlier this month, as Richard “Rod” Rodriguez, founder of Rod’s Tree Service, died in his home surrounded by family on May 3.
Rodriguez was 82 years old and would have turned 83 on May 5.
In addition to serving in the United States Marine Corps and in the San Clemente Police Department, Rodriguez started his tree trimming, planting and removal business in 1964. The company grew and eventually served as the city’s official tree contractor for decades.
Rodriguez also donated his time to various community events and organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area, Marine barbecues, and Kiwanis Club pancake breakfasts.
In February 2020, the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce honored Rodriguez with its Outstanding Lifetime Achievement award for his long-standing dedication and service to the town.
Larry Rannals, a Chamber board member and longtime friend of Rodriguez, had recalled how Rodriguez joined the Chamber and quickly became known as the “I’ll volunteer for anything with the Chamber” guy.
In emailed statements to San Clemente Times late Monday afternoon, May 22, city officials and local dignitaries responded to Rodriguez’s passing, all acknowledging his volunteerism to better serve the city.
“He was an icon in this community and the epitome of what service to one’s community means,” Rannals said in the email. “He served our nation as a proud Marine; he served San Clemente and numerous community organizations to make this city better; and he did more to bring joy and express appreciation to the Marines and families of Camp Pendleton than anyone else I can think of.”
Mayor Chris Duncan echoed those sentiments, stating, “One of the best ways to judge a person’s character is the effect they have had on others. By this measure, Rod Rodriguez has a place at the highest echelons of San Clemente.”
“From the U.S. Marine Corps to the San Clemente Police Department, to Rod’s Tree Service, to the countless city organizations he supported, Rod had an outsized positive influence on the people and institutions of San Clemente,” Duncan wrote. “We are all in his debt and will miss him greatly. His legacy will live on through his incredible family, and the benefits of his selfless service will continue to be felt and appreciated by all of us now and forever.”
Touching on the business’s long-standing membership with the Chamber of Commerce and Rodriguez’s participation on the governing board, Chamber CEO Susie Lantz recognized the legacy he leaves behind.
“Rod’s legacy of character and integrity lives on through his grandson Rick who currently serves as the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board,” Lantz said in an email. “Our heart is with his wife Gloria, beloved grandsons Jason, Matthew and Joey and the entire Rodriguez family.”
A celebration of life to honor Rodriguez is scheduled for 11 a.m. on June 9 at Doheny State Beach. The event will be open to the public.
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