Roddey laid to rest, signs off one last time

As they were hundreds of times over the last 40-plus years, Chester County’s radio airways were filled with the name and persona of Carlisle Roddey on Wednesday.

Roddey, who passed away on Monday, spent 32 years essentially running Chester as the county supervisor, but he also spent 47 years as the radio voice of the Chester Cyclones football team. Everybody knew Roddey, whether it was from his holding office or holding forth in front of a microphone on football Friday nights and there was no way the pews of his beloved Chester Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church could hold everyone who wanted to be in attendance to pay their respects. So, the service was broadcast on 90.3 WRBK FM, the same frequency where he painted a picture of Cyclones football 10 or so times a year as only he could, talking of running backs who hit the hole like a shot cat, or quarterbacks who were so bow-legged they couldn’t hem a hog in a ditch.

Clint Davis, pastor of Chester ARP, wasn’t just Roddey’s preacher, he was also his on-air broadcast partner since coming to town in 2004. He acknowledged it was difficult to accept that his friend was gone, even as Roddey’s health worsened over the last year and the end was nearing. It’s hard to imagine a world without Roddey, and even harder to imagine Chester County without him.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen,” Davis said.

Dr. Dwight Pearson, former pastor at Chester ARP, said Roddey was “a visionary.” That didn’t just apply to the way he managed the county’s affairs, it came in the way he lived his life, raised his children and supported his church. Roddey loved to talk, about sports, about Chester and about people, but Pearson and Davis both said he talked to them about his strong Christian faith often. Pearson said Roddey’s Christian principles shined through in the way he treated people.

“He had compassion for those who hurt,” he said. “He had compassion for those in need, those in dire straits. He loved people, he loved family and he loved his church.”

Pearson spoke about the kind of man Roddey was, but not for long. There weren’t a lot of Roddey stories, either. It’s not that there aren’t plenty. Indeed, when Pearson asked for a show of hands of anyone who considered Roddey their friend, every hand went up. One could probably open a Chester phone book, call a number at random and get someone on the other end of the phone who knew Roddey and had a funny story, or one about him getting their road paved, or helping them find a job, or having cooked some hash for their fundraiser or having said something nice about their child on the radio. That isn’t what he wanted at his funeral, though, and he’d told Pearson that in advance.

“He said ‘don’t get up there and say a lot of things about me. Read some scripture and talk about the Lord,’” Pearson recalled Roddey saying.

So he did, choosing “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” from Proverbs. Davis said Roddey used to tell him that he hoped when he got to Heaven, he got to go in. He is in, Davis said.

“Above all else, he was a Christian. He believed in eternal glory,” Davis said.

Unlike Pearson, though, Davis said he would be sharing some stories about Roddey.

“He told Dwight not to say much about him but he didn’t tell me that,” Davis said.

Davis said some people called Roddey “Carlisle” or “Mr. Carlisle” but he normally greeted him differently.

“I’d say ‘hey Big Boy,’ and he’d say ‘What do you know, man?’” Davis remembered.

Davis said he loved calling games on the radio with his friend, partly because you never knew what Roddey was going to say or when he was going to say it. What he liked even more was the talks he’d have with Roddey going to and from games about football and life in general. He felt like Roddey adopted him into his family. It also gave him the chance to see Roddey work his magic on occasion. He recalled riding back from a game late one night with Roddey when they were pulled over in Ridgeway. The officer seemed to be in a bad mood, and wasn’t reacting much as Roddey tried to sweet talk him.

“If you know me, you know I have a bad habit of laughing when I’m not supposed to,” Davis said.

So with Davis unable to control his laughter in the passenger seat, Roddey bored in. He asked the officer his name, thought for a second then asked “if he knew such and such from Chester” Davis said.

“The officer said ‘he’s my cousin,’” Davis said. “Carlisle said ‘well next time you talk to him, tell him old Carlisle Roddey said hey. He’ll know who I am.’”

With that the officer went back to his car, came back a minute later and told Roddey (and a still laughing Davis) to drive carefully and have a good night. No ticket. Roddey told Davis he’d have walked back to Chester if his laughing had led to his getting a traffic citation.

Davis talked about how Roddey was from Chester and loved Chester. That showed in his service, which came in a number of ways, most notably as county supervisor. His first stint lasted 24 years before ending because of an illness.

“He said people got sick of him,” Davis laughed.

He later came back for two more, four-year terms and was a key part of the county’s development and growth in all areas. Davis said Roddey was “a true servant.” His impact as the former director of EMS and the founder of the Chester County Rescue Squad was honored as a ladder truck held up an enormous American flag outside the church and later at the cemetery. A rescue squad vehicle helped lead the funeral procession. Even though it was just a bit out of the way, that procession was routed so as to go down the J.A. Cochran Bypass, right past Chester High School. It stopped briefly when the hearse carrying his body had a good view of the football stadium and the press box Roddey had occupied so many Friday nights as he called the action and rooted on the Cyclones on the radio. The funeral had been over for a few minutes by that time and the radio broadcast of it had ended. Carlisle Roddey had signed off for the last time.

By Travis Jenkins, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter