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Prison guard trades in his guns for a hammer

By: Bridget Jones, Special to the Telegraph
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One Fair Oaks resident has spent the last 60 years of his life working and volunteering in Folsom. Victor Rodman, 90, began working at Folsom State Prison as a correctional officer in 1949 and retired in 1976. Rodman said he loved his job, and only considered leaving once to work at California State Prison, Solano. “To make a promotion I went to Vacaville (for an interview),” Rodman said. “After staying there for awhile I said, ‘Thank you, but I don’t think so.’ Nothing looked appealing enough to go to another institution.” Rodman said he enjoyed the excitement of the job, but also the interaction he experienced on a daily basis. “I had a counseling session (with inmates),” he said. “I enjoyed talking to the inmates. They’re people just like you and me. I enjoyed working with them. They’d tell me a lot of stories about how they survived and what they did.” Working as a correctional officer wasn’t Rodman’s only life experience. He was born in Beaver Crossing, Neb. and moved to California in 1937 to work on the railroad. Over the next several years he worked on a cattle ranch and in a lumber mill. While serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II he was stationed in England. It was there Rodman met his wife, Peg. The couple were married in 1943. Peg said she remembers a certain physical feature that first attracted her to Victor. “His hair,” she said with a laugh. “I always liked a man with curly hair.” The two have now been married for 65 years. They have one daughter, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild with another on the way. In 1958 the Rodmans began attending Trinity Episcopal Church on Figueroa Street. Since that time Victor Rodman has rebuilt the pews, constructed an altar, added an altar railing, built chandelier lights and fashioned a credence table. He and his wife have also worked in the church’s thrift shop for fifty years. Victor has also done several projects within the shop, including laying carpet, putting up shelves, installing cabinets and removing an old bathtub that dated back to the time the shop was a house. Reverend Charles Cornell said Victor is always willing to help whenever the church is in need of repairs or volunteer work. “He’s worked in the thrift store for decades,” Cornell said. “He does repairs; he fixes the kneelers when they break down. He’s always willing to jump in and do a handyman task when needed. Wherever you look inside the church you see his handiwork.” Victor said he enjoys volunteering in the church because it keeps him active and he loves working with people. “It’s the excitement of getting up in the morning and meeting new people,” Victor said. “I think that’s what keeps us moving. If we sit in a rocking chair mother nature will catch up to us too quick.” Victor’s dedication to those around him and to his work makes him the person he is, Cornell said. “He’s a very kind person, and he’s done a lot for other people,” Cornell said. “He’s always been a very hard worker too. Wherever he was as a young man or when he worked with corrections … he had a good work ethic. He never expected anything to be handed to him.” Victor and Peg lived in a trailer home in Folsom for only one week in 1958. Victor traded the trailer for a house in Fair Oaks. He sold that house a short time later and built the house he and his family have lived in for the past 50 years. Still, Victor said he’s always loved the Folsom community. “It’s a friendly place,” he said. “We enjoy helping the community service with everything we get involved in. We just never got involved with living in Folsom.” On top of his volunteer work, Victor said he still enjoys doing some traveling, playing golf and gardening. This year Victor was featured in the California Correctional Peace Officers Association calendar for the month of April. CCPOA members had been encouraged to send in surveys detailing their community service work. Nichol Gomez-Pryde, assistant chief of communications for CCPOA, said it was an obvious choice to select Victor as one of the members to be featured in the calendar. “Victor’s outstanding community service of 60 plus years … was amazing to us,” Gomez-Pryde said. “Him and Peg are just the happiest (people). I want to be that person when I’m their age. They’re just very active and loving life, which I think is wonderful.” Anyone interested in receiving a copy of the calendar through mail can call CCPOA’s headquarters at (916) 372-6060. Victor said he credits his active lifestyle to the fact that he’s always tried to keep his body healthy. “Sometimes you’re only as old as you feel,” he said. “That’s life. If you feel good, you act accordingly.” Bridget Jones can be reached at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com.