Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

This is Joe Rodwell's Story

Gone But Not Forgotten

Rodwell1Sm.jpg The highlight of my USAFA days was graduation day because, two days later, I married my high school sweetheart, Sue Johnson, my now wife of nearly 47 years. Sue and I began dating just before my senior year in high school. Even though we lived fairly close to one another during those years in Minneapolis, I actually attended a Catholic, boarding high school, St. John's Prep School (the oldest secondary school in the state of MN), so we probably saw each other once every other week. Sue graduated from Holy Angels Academy in Richfield, MN, about a mile from my home. We didn't see each other a lot during my first 2 years at the Academy (she did come out with my parents for Christmas the first year, when we couldn't leave the grounds, because they thought we wouldn't come back). However, as luck would have it, Sue's Dad had a choice of being transferred to either Salt Lake City or Denver, and likely with some help from Sue, he picked Denver. So, we saw each other at every spare moment we could the last two years at AFA.

So, we got married in the Cadet Chapel and honeymooned in San Francisco in Ralph Nader's favorite car, "Unsafe at Any Speed," a Chevrolet Corvair Monza. We then went to Pilot Training at Vance AFB in Enid, and after graduating from Vance, Sue gave birth to our daughter, Beth, who is now a grandmother! Our next stop was Combat Crew Training in the F-4 at Davis-Monthan in Tucson, where we both enjoyed an Arizona winter instead of one in Minnesota. During Christmas break, we traveled to Perrin AFB for Dave & Karen Samuel's (Dave was our best man and dear friend) wedding, then to Minnesota, then to Denver, where Beth came down with spinal meningitis, and at 4 1/2 months old, was saved by Children's Hospital in Denver, a very scary moment for the two of us.

From Tucson, we were off to RAF Woodbridge, England, for my 78th TFS squadron F-4 assignment. We both loved England, not the weather, and we lived in a small, brand new townhome in Felixstowe that filled up with two sons, Scott (now 44) and Mark (nearly 42), both born at the only AF hospital in England, RAF Lakenheath. Highlights of our assignment were these: 1.) I got to coach the base football team for 4 years (I also played 2), and we won the Air Force in England title, then the USAFE title, then the "G.I. Super Bowl" against an under-manned Berlin Bears Army team in 1968. I've told a handful of people that, if we were still playing the game today, Berlin still would not have scored! 2.) We were fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit - to Garmisch, a driving trip in our Austin Healy 3000 (wish I had that one today) to the continent, 3 weeks on the Isle of Man where I was a range officer at a bombing site, and 2 times to Majorca. 3.) Great flying memories, including buzzing the British Open during a practice round and ejecting in the Libyan desert during a rocket pass (see my stories). 4.) I met some wonderful people and served with quite a few members of the Class of 1964 in our squadron.

When we left England, I got out of the Air Force and started flying with Northwest (Northworst) Airlines for a short time, which I didn't enjoy. Fortunately, I got laid off less than a year later, and I began what has become a 41 year career in sales, business ownership, sales again, and now business consulting.

My first sales job came after my NWA lay-off when I answered a blind ad in a newspaper which turned out to be an ad for a fraternal life insurance company, the Independent Order of Foresters. After 4 1/2 years there, I got my own Agency with Northwestern Mutual in CO Springs, and Sue and I lived there for 12 years. We loved the Springs, especially the weather, but I thought a greater opportunity called in St. Paul with a larger office of NW Mutual. In CO Springs I was 1/2 time sales, 1/2 time management, which I liked, but in St. Paul it was all management, which I neither liked nor was good at. So, after 8 years, I returned to sales after a "wake up" call and a bout with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I sold financial services (estate & retirement planning, business succession planning, life insurance and investments) for a company called Foster Klima, and I focused exclusively on business owners. In 2005 I started my current company, Exit Planning LLC. What we do is help mediums sized business owners prepare for the single most important financial event in their lives, the sale of their businesses, and the reality is they only have one chance to get it right!

Our extended family has grown. Our daughter, Beth, is the mother of 5 and grandmother of 2. The youngest of our great-grandchildren was born last year on St. Patrick's Day at 2 pounds, 10 ounces, and thanks to lots of prayers and great hospital care, he's now a "chub" at 24 pounds. Scott is the father of 3 and Mark is the father of 1. We are blessed to have all of our children and grandchildren living nearby with us in Minnesota. This past week, a lady who is updating my Executive Bio asked me this question, "What in your life are you most proud of accomplishing?" Without hesitation, I replied, "Being married to my wonderful wife, Sue, for nearly 47 years and successfully raising three pretty terrific children." That's my story.
[ My Libya F-4 Ejection ]
[ Phil Flammer & the Lafayette Escadrille ]
[ 45th Reunion of the Class of 1964 ]
[ The Fighter Pilot ]
[ Random Thoughts on Libya ]
[ The Gazette's All-Time Air Force Football Team ]
[ 1963 Nebraska Football Program ]
[ Who is Jack Schitt? ]
[ Gone But Not Forgotten ]
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