Rodney 'Rod' N. Searle July 17, 1920 - January 5, 2014
Rodney N. "Rod" Searle, 93, died peacefully on Sunday, January 5, 2014, at The River Farm,'' his Alton Township home since 1947.
Memorial services will be held on Friday, January 10, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at the St. Paul''s Episcopal Church (200 S. Cedar Ave.) in Owatonna, with Father Michael Tippett, officiating. Private interment will take place at a later date.
Visitation will be held at the McRaith Funeral Home & Crematory of Waseca on Thursday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. and for one hour prior to services at the church on Friday morning. There will be a 7:00 p.m. Masonic service at the funeral home on Thursday evening.
Memorials are preferred to the Waseca Area Hospice or to the Waseca County Historical Society in memory of Rod.
Rod was a man of many dimensions that revolved around family, conservation, education, and public service. The son of William A and Ruby (Barrus) Searle, Rodney Newell Searle was born July 17, 1920 in Camden, NJ. Rod and his two brothers grew up in Haddonfield, NJ, during the Depression and worked at odd jobs to help support the family. He graduated from Haddonfield Memorial High School in 1939, and attended Rutgers University from 1940-1942. He married Janette (Jane) Elizabeth Christie on May 17, 1941. A case of rheumatic fever made him ineligible for military service and he spent WWII working at Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, NJ.
Seeing no post-war future at J&J, he and Jane moved to Minnesota in April 1947 with two small children (Newell and Linda) and no experience in farming. Through the help of neighbors, the Soil Conservation Service, and his own reading, Rod installed contour strips, ditches, tile lines, impoundments, and tree plantations that doubled the tillable acreage on a farm once described as "too thick to drink and too thin to plow". The Waseca County Jaycees named him the "Outstanding Young Farmer" of 1955. Other local and regional organizations honored him as a Farmer-Sportsman and as Minnesota Tree
Farmer of the Year. After 50 years of active farming, he enrolled the farm in a perpetual easement for watershed conservation.
Although Rod once described himself as a 'poor student', he earned a B.A. with a double major in political science and history from Mankato State College in 1961 during his third term in the Minnesota Legislature. Elected to the non-partisan Legislature in 1956, Rod was re-elected 11 times until his retirement in 1981. His open-minded approach to policy- making earned him the deep respect of members from both parties for his fairness, integrity, and kindness. He served 22 years on the House Appropriations Committee and chaired the committee's Higher Education Division from 1963-72. By his efforts as chairman, the new state-wide junior college system was established and 2 new campuses were made part of the State university system (Metro and Southwest). He served as Assistant Minority Leader from 1975-78 and then caucus leader from 1978-81. Elected Speaker of the House in 1979, Rod''s fairness and temperament enabled him to preside over a productive bi-partisan chamber of 67 Republicans and 67 Democrats. He published "Minnesota Standoff: The Politics of Deadlock" in 1990, a personal perspective of that unique event.
After his legislative career, he served as president of the Minnesota State University Board (1980-94). For his many contributions to higher education, Winona State University awarded him an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 2001. His interests are reflected in leadership service with the Minnesota State Forestry Association and many statewide boards and commissions: the Waseca County Red Cross, the Janesville PTA, the Minnesota Civil Air Patrol, the Waseca County Historical Society, the Waseca Rotary, and the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center (Farmamerica) .
Rod lived for and on The River Farm'', until his death. Planting trees in the face of land clearing for row crops was his gift to the future.
He is survived by his second wife, Ruth Searle, of Alton Township, his daughter Linda Grant of Waseca, his sons R. Newell Searle (Sue Stavig) of Minnetonka and Alan Searle (Brenda) of Toledo, Oregon; a step-daughter Elaine (Corey) VanDeest, by six grandchildren and by four great-grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, by his brothers, Barton and Harvey Searle, and by his first wife Jane.