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PIKEVILLE — Whether it was patrolling the girls golf links with a stride of confidence, or engaging colleagues and students within the halls of Charles B. Aycock, Roger Rhodes had a smile and an encouraging word for just about everybody.
“We met just about every morning together for about 15 minutes before school,” former CBA athletic director Charles Davis recalled. “He was just a fine, fine man and a very good friend.”
The careers of Davis and Rhodes almost ran parallel at the Pikeville school, with Davis spending 27 years there — 24 as athletic director. Rhodes, a longtime carpentry teacher and coach on several Golden Falcon teams, passed away this week after an extended illness at the age of 64.
“He would give you the shirt off his back and do anything in the world for you,” Davis said. “The kids really enjoyed him and having him in class, and the teams that he coached, you never had to worry about him as far as doing things. He would always make sure things were done right.”
Rhodes’ fingerprints and handiwork were and still are visible on campus. He believed in the importance of real-world application in the classroom, and the stability of the Golden Falcons’ tennis programs under former coach Luke Vail could be attributed to his steady maintenance hand. Vail, along with Davis, was one of the recipients of a Rhodes morning chat.
“He was an exceptional motivator for those students and athletes who played for him in golf and also in track,” Vail said. “I think in the classroom, he earned the respect of his students and his students always had excellent test scores on state tests. He was just one of those teachers that was gifted that he could reach any student, no matter what level they performed at. He seemed to be able to have that connection that he could motivate even low-achieving students and turned them into high-achieving students.”
When there was a need for a tennis storage building for Vail’s program, Rhodes built it. In the event of the nets needing to be leveled or any other maintenance issue on the court, Rhodes was there.
“I always told everybody, I haven’t seen a problem or a dilemma that Roger Rhodes couldn’t solve,” Vail said. He always had confidence in himself and confidence in his players.”
That confidence translated into individual state titles for CBA athletes. Tara Simmons won the only two North Carolina High School Athletic Association individual girls golf championships in school history in 2011 and 2012 before moving on to the Ivy League and Dartmouth College. Simmons rebounded from losing the 2012 3-A East regional with a 9 on the formidable No. 18 at Birchwood Country Club.
In 2014, Courtney Warner swept the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the NCHSAA 3-A meet. Rhodes also helped with the softball program when he first arrived in the 1990’s and coached boys golf and winter track for a time.
Although CBA football coach Steve Brooks has only been with the Falcons since 2013, Rhodes only had one answer for the newcomer when weight room improvements or repairs to blocking sleds were needed: “Steve, I’ll get right on it.”
“The thing I can tell you about Roger Rhodes was whether he agreed with everything you did or said or whether you agreed with everything he did or said, there was never a time where he would tell you no, he would not help you do something.” Brooks said. “That was from either building a building or trying to help one of your student-athletes. He was just that person he would take his shirt off his back to give to you, whether you liked each other or not. I saw that many times throughout our school, and that’s the great thing about Roger. He was willing to do anything he possibly could to help his fellow colleague, no matter how y’all felt about each other.”
Although retirement eventually took Rhodes away from the halls of CBA, he was always a phone call away.
Not so anymore.
“How many people work 37 years in education?” Vail queried. “He loved every minute of it. I would always ask him if he was going to retire this year.”
Funeral services are set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Shumate-Faulk Funeral Home in Dudley.
“I feel blessed to have had Roger as one of my best friends in all my life,” Vail said.