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Joseph's Story

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Joseph Ignacio Rodriguez, born on August 13, 1925, in Seward, Pennsylvania to Sebastian and Francesca Covello de Rodriguez, passed away on November 12, 2017 in Boise, Idaho.
Growing up in Niagara Falls, New York, in a large family speaking a mixture of English, Spanish and Italian, Joe chose as his first passion a truly American pastime - playing basketball at the Boys Club. From the first bounce to the last, Joe's life typified the American ideal of doing one's best, while maintaining a sense of fair play and humor. As the oldest brother of the Rodriguez siblings, he inspired and encouraged them through his respect for formal education, hard work, and pursuit of many different interests.
With these qualities, Joe became a star basketball player for Niagara Falls High School, Canisius College and the University of Illinois. As a young, out-of-state recruit at Illinois, he was picked to create a scrimmage team to test the starting team of this prominent Big Ten school. Joe's teams frequently won the match-ups, often by large point margins! Joe also coached and played on independent teams wherever his profession as a physical trainer and educator led him. Drafted late in World War II, he served as a medical aid at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D. C. (caring for General Pershing among others) and was captain and the leading scorer on the Army Medical Corps basketball team.
Returning to school after his discharge, he earned his master's degree at Washington State University in the field of physical science education. In 1953, Joe accepted a position with the U.S. State Department in Thailand. Working at the American Embassy in Bangkok, he taught leadership and technical skills to Thai physical education teachers. After a year in Thailand, Joe was invited by a former colleague to help organize and open one of the first Boys Clubs in Venezuela's capital city, Caracas. After the launching of the Caracas Boys Club, Joe was invited to join the human resources department of Creole Oil Company (Exxon of Venezuela) in Caracas as a trainer and thus began a new career in the field of organizational development.
In 1956, as the leader in charge of orientation for new Creole employees, he met Rita Jean Branham, a new teacher-recruit for the company. This began a fun-filled courtship that led to marriage three years later. Rita and Joe made their first home in Maracaibo, Venezuela. In 1961, Joe accepted a stateside offer to become the Director of Training - NE Region for the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C. and they moved back to the U.S. Their son, Tomas was born there in late 1961.
In his employment with the IRS from 1961 to 1968, Joe became a nationally respected expert in the field of organizational development, leading workshops and collaborating with other experts in the field in such places as the Harvard Business School, Yale University and American Society of Training Directors. In 1970, the Boise Cascade Corporation hired Joe to join the company's organizational development team. Throughout his 15-year tenure at Boise Cascade, he became renowned as a master planner, problem solver and troubleshooter. Whether it was working with employees on the factory floor or the top corporate executives in company headquarters and beyond, Joe excelled in his ability to understand how people worked together.
After Joe's retirement from Boise Cascade in 1985, Joe and Rita often traveled to Brooklyn to visit their son Tomas, a musician based in New York City. New York was their stopover as they made memorable trips to Italy, Turkey and Greece, excursions which were part of their passion to learn about other cultures. Joe's own travel led him to investigate his family roots in Ourense (Galicia), Spain and to seek out long lost relatives from Spain in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Back home, Joe planned their yearly trips to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. It was Joe's goal to see every Shakespearean play. He also found time to continue in his professional field, doing occasional consulting work for national and Boise-based companies and local non-profits such as: Alcoa Aluminum, J. R. Simplot Company, the Junior League of Boise, Boise School District, the Wittenberg Foundation and Alden-Waggoner.
In his leisure time, he was avid in keeping up with current events. Joe was a lifetime reader of the New York Times, as well as other newspapers and magazines. A friend once introduced Joe as "the most informed person I know." Even though he was a member of Crane Creek Country Club and lived by the golf course for ten years, he never took to golf. For Joe, hours reading a biography, a history of England, a Phillip Roth novel or listening to a Frank Sinatra ballad or a Lucho Gatica bolero was time better spent.
An immaculate dresser, Joe never slouched. His picture-perfect posture reflected the precision of his way of moving through life with grace and confidence. A deep kindness toward his family, his business relationships and strangers marked his style.
Joe is survived by his wife, Rita, his son, Tomas and his daughter-in-law, Maria Teresa Sanchez and by brothers, Sebastian 'Jay' Rodriguez (Renee), and Donald (Mary) Palacios, Jennifer (late Charles) Zimmerman, Anita (Fred) Manuel, Marion (Angelo) Nichele and sister-in-law Donna (late Frank) Rodriguez and many nephews and nieces.
He was preceded in death by the Rodriguez siblings, brother, Frank (Donna) Rodriguez; sisters, Susan and Sister Suzanne (Molly) Rodriguez, Julie (John) Dryja, and the Chiodo siblings: John, Ann, Lydia, Joan, and Rose.
Joe's family is deeply grateful for the loving care given to him by the nurses and aides of the Terraces of Boise skilled nursing facility and by his hospice nurse, chaplain, and social worker, all provided by Signature Hospice. In keeping with his preferences for warm seasons, a celebration of his life will happen in the spring, should you wish to be included in an invite, please e-mail: maiteandtomas@gmail.com
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Signature Hospice, 312 3rd Street South, Nampa, ID 83651 or to Doctors Without Borders.
Published on November 16, 2017
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