His life spanned a bit over 94 years, but his legacy lives on in the people who were blessed to have him in their lives. I was one of those persons. My first encounter with Rollin C. Edmondson (or “Ed” as he was known) was in May 1974 when I began work at the Iowa State University Library (since renamed Parks Library).
His manner and style definitely prompted you to do your best. He was an optimist and, even during extremely busy times, he kept an even-keel. I have no idea of the number of students he hired and trained through the years, but it was always in a spirit of “can do” and “you are important” on the job.
A retired officer from World War II, he loved to tell stories about his time in the military. A new book came through his hands one day that had photographs of where he had been in Italy, and I think he showed that book to just about everyone within range. “I was there!” he proudly exclaimed as he pointed to the pictures.
Part of his duties was to oversee the operation in the exit of the library where patrons had to have their bags and backpacks quickly examined before leaving the building. (Before the days of electronic security). With typical good humor, he would say to the serious-faced students, “I’m checking for twenty dollar bills.” That usually brought at least a smile to their face.
Ed and his wife, Helen, lived close to Huxley, Iowa, on an acreage. Everyday on his lunch time, Ed could be seen going to the bank of pay telephones (obviously before the advent of cell phones) and placing a long-distance call to his wife to see how she was doing. I think you could have sent your watch by his doing this thoughtful deed.
We exchanged Christmas cards and letter for many years following his retirement from the library. In the last decade, he and Helen moved to Washington, Iowa, and even as their health declined, his letter would always be filled with cheer and optimism. You couldn’t keep a good man down!
I can imagine there may have been a slight delay for the other souls arriving at the heavenly gates as the same time he did: Ed probably had one more story to tell St. Peter and everyone around would have wanted to hear it, too.
Rest in peace, Rollin C. Edmondson! You were one of a kind and as well as a magnificent friend and mentor!