Dr. Willard passed away August 24, 2018
July 26, 1927 – August 24, 2018
Rodney E. Willard ’56 died August 24, 2018, in Cottonwood, Arizona, at the age of 91, just weeks after the passing of his wife Barbara. He is survived by his four children, Karen Willard, Keith Willard, Kathy Willard, Kirk Willard, his brother Dudley Willard, his sister Marilyn Willard Anderson, and grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Rodney was born the oldest of six children in Sanitarium, California, and later grew up in the Cottonwood and Prescott areas of Arizona before his family moved to Loma Linda, California. He served as medic in the US Army in WWII and then as a sergeant in the Army National Guard. After the war he met Barbara Hastings in Loma Linda, while attending La Sierra College, where they fell in love and were married in 1948.
Rodney graduated from the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda University School of Medicine) in 1956, interned at the Henry Ford Hospital, and practiced as a general practitioner before returning to a pathology residency at Emory University in 1963. He completed his training as an NIH Fellow in clinical chemistry at Yale and joined the faculty in the Department of Pathology at Loma Linda University in 1967, serving first as Chief of Clinical Chemistry and then as Director of Clinical Laboratories for the Loma Linda University Hospitals while publishing the usual array of academic articles.
But his real joy was expressed as a teacher rather than researcher through the many medical students, medical technologists, and pathology residents that passed through his life. He volunteered throughout his career as a preceptor for medical students serving at neighborhood medical clinics sponsored by the School of Medicine, and he also served gratis as laboratory director of records for the Monument Valley Mission Hospital Laboratory. He combined his love as a general aviation pilot with service by flying in LIGA sponsored medical missions deep into rural areas of Mexico and used his lifelong involvement with amateur radio to serve as a communication volunteer for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Medical Emergency Response Corps and public events well into his ninth decade.
Rodney was active in many professional societies, earning awards from county and state medical societies for his political leadership in the fight for rational HIV testing before the California legislature. The Alumni Association presented Dr. Willard with the Honored Alumnus Award in 2001 and recognized him with the Iner Sheld-Ritchie Presidential Award in 2006. But his most important role in this life was as husband and father. He was joined at the hip even to the very end to his wife of 70 years, Barbara. No one who knew Rodney and Barbara ever doubted the deep love binding them together throughout their life of raising four strongly independent children. He stimulated a love of learning that shaped all members of the family, each in their own way. He was always willing to lend a literal helping hand for all of his children long after they achieved mature adulthood, whether it meant swinging a hammer, getting dirty under the hood, or scraping his hands when torquing a wrench. His departure leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of his family and friends.
(Source: Family of Dr. Willard)