Rodney Maynard Elden died at Windemere on September 19 in Oak Bluffs at the age of 91. The cause of death was mesothelioma.
He was born in Los Angeles, Calif., on September 10, 1920, the son of Henry and Oda Elden. Starting in 1986, he summered in Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven and moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2006.
When his daughter Irene married Douglas West, whose family had owned a Campground cottage since 1960, he immediately began to visit them in the summer from his home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., playing his tuba in the Vineyard Haven Band. He joined the West Family Reunion in 2010 celebrating 50 years of cottage ownership in the Martha’s Vineyard Campground.
He met Marion Viola Miller at Washington High School in Los Angeles. He went on to graduate from the California Maritime Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Marine and Electrical Engineering in 1941. He later served as Chairman of its Board of Governors. He and Marion married in 1943 and had three children; they lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, depending on ship building and management activity. They divorced in 1974.
Rod was in the naval reserve for five years before Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, he was in Manila aboard the US Lines American Packer. He and his shipmates escaped to Australia and then sailed back to New York around South America. He spent three years as Chief Engineer on oil tanker convoys to England and the South Pacific. In 1942 his ship docked in New Jersey just before the Normandie caught fire and capsized. After the war he joined Joshua Hendy Corp. and Hendy International Co., where he was superintendent, operations manager, and vice president. The Hendy entities were operators of 34 ocean tankers, bulk carriers, and specialty vessels for the carriage of wine, molten sulfur, and petrochemicals. He retired from there in 1967 to open his consulting business, Rodney Elden Associates, in New York City He was a consultant to management, doing market surveys, policy and organization planning, operations research, and executive searches. He published “Ship Management: A Study in Definition and Measurement” in 1962. He joined the Society of Maritime Arbitrators, and his last assignment was in 2010 at the age of 90.
He credited his interest in all things maritime to “Bob Graham At Sea” (1925) by Felix Riesenberg, which he read as a youngster. He kept his Chief Engineer’s license current, which enabled him to ride in the engine room on the Island Home shortly after it went into service.
Music was very important to him throughout his life. His interest in music was sparked when he joined Boy Scout Troop 107, which had a 100-member band. The tall boy in the back was told he’d play the tuba. In 1937 his troop was selected to be in a Paramount movie shot in the mountains near Los Angeles, “Mind Your Own Business,” starring Charlie Ruggles. Rod used the $275 he was paid to buy his first car, a 1931 Model A Ford, which he later sold to pay college tuition at the California Maritime Academy. He became an Eagle Scout in 1934.
Yearning for a hobby and missing music, he joined the Palos Verdes Symphonic Band in his 40’s and started playing in community concerts. He played in the first Tuba Christmas in the Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink and partly in recognition of his support for The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music he was inducted into the American Bandmasters’ Association. He played with the Virginia Grand Military Band and most recently, the Vineyard Haven Band. In his later years he continued to play in the Ocean Park concerts. His son-in-law carryied the tuba and handed it up to Mark Luce, one of Rod’s fellow horn players, while Rod climbed the dark, interior stairway.
He was honored to participate in the wording of the plaque honoring merchant seamen for WWII service at American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven, placed on Memorial Day in 2009. In his remarks he described his three years in the oil tanker convoys to England and the South Pacific and the loss of his college friend on a sister ship also en route to Iwo Jima.
He loved the rhythm of his Vineyard life, greeting friends at the post office, stopping to visit favorite canines, always with a treat in his pocket, checking out new books at the Thrift Shop, and attendiing vibrant summer programs. A gourmet cook, he lived alone, reading the New York Times every day, listening to classical and band music, and enjoying the long life he was granted.
Survivors include his younger brother, Gordon, of Los Angeles, Calif.; his daughters and sons-in-law, Irene Ziebarth and Douglas West of Newport Beach, Calif., and Oak Bluffs, and Suzanne and Ed Juline of Huntington Beach, Calif.; his son, Douglass Elden of Newport Beach, Calif.; his four grandchildren, Robert Ziebarth of Fullerton, Calif., Ed Juline of Guadalajara, Mexico, Tiffany Lauchlan of Phoenix, Ariz., and Brett Jackson of Hartford, Conn.; and one great-grandson, Alexander Juline of Guadalajara, Mexico.