Rodger Schock cut a swath as wide as a sternwheeler — and as narrow as an elevator door.
Schock, a leader and community benefactor, died Tuesday at age 75.
Metal fabricator, church leader, grandfather, fisherman, raconteur, artist, and county commissioner were among the roles the Indiana native filled out in life.
“A big heart. A kind heart. He was never shy about talking to strangers. And you wouldn’t stay a stranger very long,” recalls his friend, Leonard Wood.
Schock is survived by his wife, Judy, three children and three grandchildren.
Schock owned Schock Welding, based in Odell, for years before retiring about 10 years ago; and in his previous work at Nichols Boat Works in Hood River, he and Wayne Perkins of Hood River built the Columbia Sternwheeler, among many other vessels still working rivers and ports in the western United States.
“He was a super-big-hearted guy, and selfless,” said Les Perkins, who, besides being Schock’s nephew by marriage, got into politics in the first place thanks to Schock. Perkins, elected in 1999, has the longest tenure of all current county commissioners.
Perkins and Schock ended up serving on commission from 2002-2005, when Schock got back into politics. (His first tenure on the County Commission was 1979-86.)
As a youth, Les Perkins worked along with his father and the man who always insisted he call him “Uncle Rodger.”
“He wanted to serve the community, and really cared about people issues,” Perkins said. “He didn’t have an agenda. He wanted to help people and was a big-picture guy.”
He said Schock’s death came too suddenly.
“We had a graduation party for our daughter, Katie, over the weekend, and Rodger was there, in typical Rodger form. Then things got bad pretty quickly,” he said.
David Meriwether, who also worked with Schock in county government, said, “He was a wonderful person, so full of life, and very dedicated to the community.” Meriwether served as county administrator from 2001-2016.
“He had so many ideas and was always striving to improve things and do the best job he could for the county. Rodger was so affable and kind, and had a great sense of humor. He was truly always a pleasure to be around,” Meriwether said.
Schock was elected commission chair in 2002, defeating incumbent John Arens for the post. Schock had also served on the county commission from 1979-86.
Schock was also active in the American Legion and at Riverside Community Church, where he and Wood worked on numerous projects together.
Wood recalled first meeting Schock years back when Wood, a Pine Grove firefighter, happened to be driving down Highway 35 and seeing Schock at one of his projects, attempting to beat out flames in grass beside the road.
“The winds were coming up and I remember telling him, as a firefighter, ‘Let’s call 911,’ but Rodger said, ‘oh no, don’t do that,’” and the two men got the fire out.
Schock and Wood went on many fishing trips together.
“Rodger knew more about the fish than they knew about themselves,” he said. “It was a great way to spend time and talk, but I don’t remember ever catching anything, and I don’t recall Rodger catching anything either.”
In 2012, Schock led the campaign to install a lift for the mobility-impaired to get to the Rierside Church sanctuary. Wood recalled the day Schock was demonstrating the lift to three other people — and the car got stuck halfway down, due to too much weight inside.
“They were in there a half-hour or so and Rodger was trying to figure out how to get it to move,” Wood said. “He called me and I happened to be driving down State Street at the time, so I got there and hit the reset switch. But not before taking a photo.”
Schock had the idea of naming the lift “Arlen’s Access” in honor of the late Rev. Arlen Fick, who had served at Riverside in the 1960s.
As the owner of Schock Welding, and as a private citizen, Schock lent his metallurgic skills to numerous endeavors, often donating railings and other metalwork to parks such as Brick Stratton Park (above Overlook Memorial Fountain on Second Street) and to public agencies and non-profits.
“He always had something going on the side for people,” Perkins said. “Things he didn’t really talk about, he just did them.”
In 2001, his metal fish and trees art piece was installed in the Visitor Center at the old Expo Center building.
The pieces were taken down and put into storage when the Expo Center was demolished, and the Port of Hood River is in the process of deciding on a permanent new home for the work.