Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood
by Cate Murway
It's just the way things have always worked. An aspiring young man is elected to a local town council and gradually sets out to make a name for himself. After a few years of hard work and some positive media attention, the goal is to have accrued enough of a profile to at least contemplate running for mayor. In 1981, Bristol Borough is a town of 12,300 people. John Maurice Rodgers, BHS class of ‘47 is still the Mayor and Ronald Wilson Reagan [1911-2004] is the 40th President of the U.S.
An unusual collection of talents is needed to be a Mayor, a genuine feel for the town is necessary and oh, something else. One has to pass the character test. That is, it helps if you're a character! That’s what makes our crayon box so full of colors!
Every town is one great mayor away from being a great town, being transformed by inspired and inspiring leadership.
John Rodgers shares his birthday with Alexander Graham Bell, who was awarded the first U.S. patent for the invention of the telephone in 1876. The basic concept behind this device was that messages could be sent through a single wire if each message were transmitted at a different pitch. According to one of Bell’s most famous pupils, Helen Adams Keller [1880-1968], “Bell dedicated his life to the penetration of that "inhuman silence which separates and estranges."
Fortunately for Bristol Borough, Mayor Rodgers had the ability to demonstrate expansiveness with his visionary ideas. He was great at presenting them, “a different pitch for everyone” and he knew how to approach people to get what he needed and wanted for the town. He “penetrated the inhuman silence which separates and estranges". He inspired all of the Borough citizens with the confidence to move ahead together.
John M. Rodgers was born on Bath Street into a house occupied by 12 people, including his grandparents, an Aunt and 2 Uncles. He smilingly shares, “It was a house full of love and one bathroom”. His father, John William was a Borough committeeman and he was the one who convinced his son to run for the Council. His mom, Sarah [Lake] Rodgers worked at the Grundy Worsted Mill as did so many of their friends and relatives. His brother, a Keystone Lighting retiree, David Thomas Rodgers, St. Mark commercial program and his wife, Agnes [Coles] currently reside in Edgley.
As a kid, John claimed that you “made your own fun”, as there were no organized sports; but as a teenager, the different wards had teams. He played for the 3rd ward that is now the West Ward. His lifetime friend, Francis Joseph Danis, BHS ‘46 shared, “He was always very good in all sports, a gritty person with a good disposition.” John played center field in baseball, forward in basketball, running back in football. He played throughout his school life and continued his athletic enthusiasm playing for St. Ann’s Senior Athletic Association, whose mission is to mobilize alumni athletes to reinvest in their community and their alma mater.
During High School, John made his decision to join the Air Force [1950-1954] rather than be drafted into the Army. The Air Force has only one location for enlisted basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, TX, named after Brigadier General Frank Lackland. So his military venture began in Texas. His Air Force career included being stationed in Denver, CO, Newfoundland and Greenland. His last 2 years in the service were spent in Bolling Air Force Base in southeast Washington, DC, named in honor of the first high-ranking air service officer killed in WWI, Col. Raynal C. Bolling. John worked in an office on the base and continued to play baseball and basketball with passion for the Bolling Air Force Base team. He added, “This is where I met and married my wife”.
Elizabeth [Betty] Jane Mendick, South Fork Croyle H.S. ’50, grew up in Ehrenfeld, PA, the coal-mining neighborhood of Scooptown in the Pittsburgh Tri-State area. She shared that as a youth, she “palled around” with Charles Bronson’s [Charles Dennis Buchinsky 1921-2003] sisters, Katherine and Julie. Betty had the opportunity to work in the Navy Dept. and in the White House as a secretary while Eisenhower was the President. “I only remember that he aged; it really took a toll on him”. While in D.C., she and a cousin went to see the musical giants, trumpet player Louis Prima and vocalist Keely Smith [very much the model for Sonny & Cher and who won the Grammy Award for "That Old Black Magic"]. They were performing at the base and it was at this event that Betty Mendick met U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John M. Rodgers for the first time.
John “borrowed someone’s car” for their first date and they saw a movie, “maybe Gone With the Wind”. They were married in Bristol at St. Mark Church and moved to their first apartment across the street from his parents’ home on Bath Street.
He and Betty both worked at Kaiser Industries for a short time before Betty started her 40 year tenure at 3M and John began a career in sales at Harris Fuels, insurance sales with John Hancock and Dodge and Plymouth car sales at Dieckhaus Motors, Inc. He even had a clothing store in front of his home on Bath Street, “John Rodgers Men Shop”.
How did you get involved in that? “Actually, I loved clothes! I always dressed properly for every function. I just decided to open a Shop.” Betty smiled, “He is a real fashion plate, I’ll tell you.”
Mayor Rodgers is the only person in the history of Bristol, and he is quite proud of that fact, to have been a councilman [invested a total of 10 years as Councilman and 2 years as the President], President of the Council, 8 years as Mayor [non-consecutive terms] and a State representative in the PA House of Representatives in 1979 and 1980. John Rodgers was the Democrat endorsed candidate for the PA 140th Assembly District.
When newly elected as President of Council, Senator Grundy, the patriarch and leading citizen of Bristol, invited him to his home for a luncheon to speak with him about community affairs. “I remember most being greeted by one of his servants.”
A highlight of his lengthy political service for both of them was being invited to see Pope Paul VI celebrate the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Philadelphia.
They never stood in each other's way, but stood with each other; helping if they could, watching if they couldn’t. “We had a nice life. We enjoyed it!”
John was always at the forefront of community service, including efforts and contributions to diverse organizations such as the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County. They assist municipalities, businesses, private developers, and homeowners in the rehabilitation of blighted and deteriorated properties and reuse of abandoned or unused commercial and industrial sites. His leadership and administrative skills were most appreciated by the Lower Bucks County Hospital Board of Directors. Decade after decade, he brought function and growth to his service. Development was encouraged and many improvements provided in the community. The Grundy Tower was constructed, the first Senior Citizens Center was founded, and recreational programs were updated and improved during his tenure. He is a wonderful, contemporary role model and experience and dedication are his strong points. He is an ambitious individual exemplifying the spirit of a real force and a real presence in serving others. John has provided a legacy of community building with his leadership and he added an air of quiet dignity to the Council work, a quality that was very evident. John is an outstanding contributor to the Borough. May his stamp on the town last a very long time.
Fran Danis added, “John worked very hard to become Mayor. He is truly Bristol!”
Fred Bennett Hems, Sr., BHS Class of ‘48 agreed, “John Rodgers was always for a better Bristol.”
John and his father both served as President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of which John is a life member [60 years!]. Its motto is, "Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity." The use of the name in Ireland goes back as far as 1565, when it was founded by an Irish chieftain, Rory O'Moore. The former Mayor now has time to play golf, enjoying his lifetime membership at the Yardley Country Club and has had the benefit of playing 2or3 times a week. He boasts of golfing a 78 and a 79, making 5 holes-in-one and having a handicap of 3! Betty unselfishly has donated her time to the BRT.
Everyone finds John to be genuinely kind and down-to-earth, with an easygoing nature. The Rodgers currently reside on Seabird Drive, the former home of the W. Averell Harriman shipyards, the Merchant Shipbuilding Corporation (later called Merchant-Sterling), where the “Victory” cargo ships were once assembled. From their deck, one can still see some of the shipyard pilings, a remembrance of the Borough’s great shipbuilding heritage. When Harold and Carol Mitchener moved into this same development, John visited them the very first day. Harold confirmed, “He is always so friendly and cordial and concerned about others!”
"Won't you be my neighbor?" Fred M. Rogers
The town has changed some but John’s memories are permanent. In his late teens, he went to all the dances in Trenton and to the ones held at the Moose. He and his friends made treks to one of the famous venues of The Big Band Era, the landmark SunnyBrook Ballroom in southeastern PA that showcased Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, and Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. Non-stop entertainment at the giant steel and concrete pier, Steel Pier in Atlantic City, also successfully lured John and his pals. It's been said that Big Bands weren't really “big” until they started to play on Steel Pier. “Yeah, I really liked to dance and I still like the Big Bands music. I have a lot of records [and the stereo to play them on!]”
The first transportation he owned was a 1937 gunmetal gray Plymouth that he purchased for about $150. The big selling point was the “safety styled” instrument panel and door handles designed to not snag clothing.
The time-honored shopping venues that meandered through the town included Harry Straus’[cut rate patent medicines] drug store fountain, the place to go or his crowd hung at Vincent D. O'Boyle Sr.’s “O'Boyle's Ice Cream Co.” on East Farragut Avenue. Junior Field’s dad owned another popular family-run eating/meeting place on Wood Street, [currently Deluca Fuel Oil, Inc]. Mr. Field supplied the teens with grilled hotdogs and his special sauce, a jukebox and a place to dance!
For a nickel, they could go over to the Burlington Island by ferry for ice cream and a soda and to spend time on the beach.
He heard stories from his mother about how there once had been an amusement park but it burned down. The River, canal and Silver Lake were the popular swimming holes. The Kof C and Elks had a float, and he and his friends could dive and swim from the Mill Street dock to the island. “My mother never knew I did that!” Everyone knows now!
His favorite Mill Street stores included Edward’s, Gilardi’s and Gallagher & Gallagher Men’s Shops. Bristol was the shopping hub from Trenton to Philadelphia until right after the war.
Sports are still his passion, especially the Yankees and Notre Dame football games.
He truly enjoys “Cesare’s Italian Specialties Ristorante” [the closest thing to home cooking!] classic Veal Parmesan or dinners at the King George II Inn. “I’m a steak person, too, I guess.”
There is a sacred nature in the Borough and Mayor Rodgers, with his unflappable temperament, a lot of late nights, a firm sense of organization and an effective media presence, focused on the subjects at hand and worked toward the future and was one of the people to make it sacred.
John M. Rodgers was a great mayor and a proper steward of his office with his coherent community vision. He is beloved locally and respected widely.
“One thing I am most proud of is holding those 4 offices that no one else ever did. I love the town and I think I helped make things better.”
John M. Rodgers, Mayor 1966-1969, 1978-1981
To recommend a Bristol Borough Character to be spotlighted: email email@example.com
John M. Rodgers
Sadly, John M. Rodgers of Bristol Borough
was called to Heaven Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.
He passed away peacefully at his home. He was 84.
Born in Bristol Borough,
he was son of the late John and Sarah (Lake) Rodgers.
John lived his entire life in Bristol.
The main theme of John's life was in providing service to others.
In this role, he served as a Borough Councilman,
President of Borough Council, Mayor of Bristol and
as a member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives.
In addition, he was on the Board of Directors of Lower Bucks Hospital,
and was involved in a number of community improvement efforts.
During this time, he was an important force that led
to the creation of Grundy Towers and the Senior Citizens Center in Bristol.
He was a longtime member and past president of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, Michael Dougherty Division 1, Bristol. In his youth, he was an outstanding athlete in baseball, basketball, and football, and later was an avid golfer.
His devotion to improve the town of Bristol continued into his retirement years when he served as president of the Executive Board for the Villas at Riverview.
He is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Betty (Mendick) Rodgers; one brother, David Rodgers of Bristol; and his last surviving cousins of his generation, Donald Singer and Maurice Harkins. He also is survived by his brother and sister-in-laws, June Kerkow (Larry), Evelyn Weidl (Joseph), Fay Mendick, Milton Mendick, and James Mendick (Ruth); and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at St. Mark Church, Bristol Borough. Interment will be in St. Mark Cemetery. Friends may call from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Saturday, at Wade Funeral Home, 1002 Radcliffe St., Bristol Borough.
In lieu of flowers, Mass Cards would be appreciated. Wade Funeral Home, Bristol Borough
I have, so many good memories of Mayor Rodgers. His mother Sarah, and Bath St. He used to help us decorate our bikes for the Memorial Day parades and during election day we would ride around with streamers on our Bike and signs vote for Rodgers. What a good guy. R.I.P. our Mr Rodgers.
So very sorry to hear of his passing. He was a special man.
R.I.P. Mr. Rodgers
David T. Rodgers, age 82, of Levittown, Pa., passed away on Thursday,
November 29, 2012 at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse, Philadelphia.
Born in Bristol, to the late John and Sarah (nee Lake) Rodgers,
he was raised in Bristol and has resided in Levittown for the past 45 years.
Mr. Rodgers was a veteran of the U.S. Air National Guard and was a devoted and lifelong member of St. Mark Church.
Husband of the late Agnes M. (nee Coles) Rodgers, he is survived by 3 sons, David Rodgers and his wife, Allison, Mark Rodgers and Larry Coles, 3 grandchildren, Crystal, Jenette and Theodore, 1 great-grand-daughter, Elise, his sister-in-law, Betty Rodgers along with many cousins. He was predeceased by his brother, John Rodgers.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his Funeral Mass on Friday, December 7, 2012, 10:00am at St. Mark Church. Interment will be held in St. Mark Cemetery. Friends may call Thursday evening 7-9:00pm and Friday morning 9-9:45am at the Wade Funeral Home, 1002 Radcliffe Street, Bristol Borough. In lieu of flowers, Mass Cards would be greatly appreciated.
Betty Jane [Mendick] Rodgers
1st grade 1938-1939
Ehrenfeld Grade School
Betty & her sister, Justina
Justina May (Mendick) Battles "Jessie",
went to be with her Heavenly Father on May 8, 2012
at home with her devoted family at her bedside. .
Born in Devens Hollow, PA. on July 16th 1934 to Julia Buckus and Michael Mendick. She attended Ehrenfeld Grade School and South Fork Croyle High School. She was a loving Mother, Sister and best friend; she always gave 100% of her love and her resources to her children and family. She also provided her home and love to many of her children's friends that came from troubled home's, they still refer to her as "Mom". As she put it "You are only a child once." She had a wonderful sense of humor and was able to make a room full of people laugh. She was also great storyteller and was able to capture everyone's attention. She was extremely intelligent and was often consulted by family and friends for advice on a gambit of subjects such as gardening, cooking, love and life's challenges. She enjoyed Crossword Puzzles, was great at Scrabble and an avid Boggle player. She loved all animals especially her Cat and Dog. She lived and worked in the Philadelphia and Los Angeles area before moving to Texas 28 years ago. She attended St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Austin, Texas for 25 years and was a member of the Catholic Daughters and the Legion of Mary. In California she worked at Hughes Aircraft, Revell, Horseshoe & Gardena Clubs before moving to Texas and thereafter retired from the Austin, Texas Branch of the Internal Revenue Service. She excelled in all noted positions. She was a beautiful person inside and out, a wonderful roll model and as generally accepted, pretty as any model. She is survived by her son Andrew M. Battles and spouse Rebecca (Jarriel) Battles of Savannah, GA. and daughter Christine M. Jensen of Cedar Creek, TX. Brothers Milton M. Mendick of Lanesville, IN; James L. Mendick and spouse Ruth E. Mendick of Hulmeville, PA. and sisters June M. Mendick and husband Dr. Lawrence W. Kerkow of Universal City, TX.; Evelyn M. Mendick and husband Joseph W.Weidl of Enfield, CT and Betty J. Mendick and husband John M. Rodgers of Bristol, PA.; and sister in law, Clara F.(Fay) Mendick (wife of Deceased Robert M. Mendick); 9 Grand Children: notably; Windy Battles, Anthony Battles, Garrett Battles, Shelly Cannon, Becky Walker and Kelly Wright. She had 9 Great-Grandchildren and 1 Great-Great-Grandchild. She was Proceeded in death by her parents Michael and Julia (Buckus) Mendick, her beloved Brother Robert M. Mendick, her Husband Anthony Daniel Battles and Paul Kenneth Jensen. She will be greatly missed by family, friends and all she has touched. Visitation will be held at 5:00 p.m. with the Recitation of the Holy Rosary at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, May 14, 2012 at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home South, 2620 South Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas. Mass of the Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, 2309 Euclid Ave. Austin, Texas. Interment will be at Assumption Cemetery. In Lieu of Flowers, Memorial Contributions may be made to the Catholic Daughters of St. Ignatius. Memorials and guestbook online at www.wcfish.com
Milton Michael Mendick [1936 - 2016] formerly of Bristol-Levittown, PA
Mendick, Milton Michael,79, passed away peacefully on June 25, 2016.
He was born in Ehrenfeld, PA to the late Michael and
Julia (Buckus) Mendick on September 14, 1936.
Milt served in the US Air Force and then worked for
Rohm and Haas until his retirement. He was a devout Catholic.
He was a walking encyclopedia and enjoyed puzzles
and playing cards. Milt loved all animals and was a Steelers fan.
Milt was a huge-hearted person and had an uncanny ability
to make everyone he ever met feel special.
"Uncle Milty" was kind, witty, sweet, generous and intelligent.
He is survived by his daughters, Maureen Tarquini, Michelle Close, Margaret Mendick, son and daughter-in-law Michael and Melissa Mendick; grandchildren, Christina Elder (Jake), Jennifer Smallwood, Amy and Kimberly Tarquini; great grandchildren, Alexandra, Connor and Katherine; siblings June Kerkow, Evelyn Wiedel (Joe), Betty Rodgers, Jim Mendick (Ruth); his former wife, Lee Bruce; many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A memorial visitation will be held 2:30-5:30 p.m. followed by a prayer service at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 1 2016 at Spring Valley Funeral Home, 1217 E. Spring St. New Albany, IN.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the St Jude Children's Hospital or Floyd County Animal Rescue League. The family wishes to thank all the people at Villages at Historic Silvercrest for the care and kindness they gave to Milt.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at noon on Saturday, July 30, at St. Mark R.C. Church, 1025 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, Pa. Interment will be held privately.
James L. Mendick Sr. of Hulmeville passed away Thursday, March 16, 2017,
at Chandler Hall Hospice, Newtown, with his family by his side. He was 78.
Born in Ehrenfeld, Pa., he was an instrument mechanic with Rohm & Haas Co.,
Bristol, until his retirement. He was a member of the Christian Life Center, Bensalem.
He enjoyed playing softball, walleyball, basketball, hunting, exercising,
and spending time with his family.
James was the loving husband of 57 years to Ruth E. (Varner);
father of James Mendick Jr. of Johnstown, Pa., Sheree A. Napoli (Michael) of Bristol,
Barry D. Mendick of Hulmeville, Elizabeth R. Secrest (Mark) of Levittown,
Dennis B. Mendick (Amy) of Levittown, and Paula A. Knapp of Levittown. He also is survived by six grandchildren, Kelly Chismar (Jeff), Sean Marsden, Daniel Knapp, D.J. Mendick, Brian Mendick, and Nathan Mendick; one great grandchild, Eliana Chismar; three sisters, June Kerkow of Texas, Evelyn Weidl of Connecticut, and Betty Rodgers of Bristol; and several nieces and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at the Faust Funeral Home, 902 Bellevue Ave., Hulmeville, PA 19047, where friends will be received from 11 a.m. until time of service. Interment will be held privately.Faust Funeral Home, Hulmeville
Evelyn M. Weidl
January 07, 1929 - May 30, 2018
Evelyn (Mendick) Weidl, 89, of Enfield, CT loving wife of Joseph Weidl entered into Eternal Rest on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, at St. Francis Hospital with her family by her side. Evelyn was born January 7, 1929 in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of the late Michael and Julia (Buckus) Mendick. Evelyn moved from Cleveland to Pennsylvania with her family at a young age. After high school, she accepted a position at the National Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. While working in D.C. Evelyn met Joseph Weidl at a USO dance, where he was stationed at the Navy Department. They were united in Holy Matrimony on January 27, 1951, and were married sixty-seven wonderful years. Evelyn and Joseph enjoyed traveling in Europe. Her other passions included dancing, sewing and mastering crossword puzzles. In addition to her husband, she is also survived by three children, Patricia Bessette and her husband, David of Rockville, MD, Shelley Weidl of Bowie, MD and Michael Weidl of Enfield; her beloved grandson, Michael of MD; two sisters, Betty Rodgers of PA and June Kerkow of TX and several nieces and nephews. Evelyn was predeceased by three brothers, James, Robert and Milton Mendick and a sister, Justina Battles. A funeral service celebrating Evelyn's life will be held on Saturday, June 2, 2018 at 10 am at Leete-Stevens Enfield Chapels, 61 South Rd., Enfield. Her family will receive relatives and friends beginning at 9 am until the time of the service. Burial to follow at the Hazardville Cemetery. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association, PO Box 417005 Boston, MA 02241-7005. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Leete-Stevens Enfield Chapels. For online expressions of sympathy please visit www.leetestevens.com.
Clara "Fay" Mendick, age 87, died at her home in Bristol Township
on Saturday, September 22, 2018 peacefully.
Born July 21, 1931 in South Fork, PA at home
to the late Mary Margaret (Wagner) and George T. Moore Sr.
She is the beloved wife of 49 years to Robert Michael Mendick who predeceased her on September 28, 1999. Fay is also predeceased by brothers, George, Richard and Edward Moore, brothers-in-law, Larry Kerkow, Milton Mendick, James Mendick, John Rodgers and Robert Werfel, and sisters-in-law, Justina Battles, Evelyn Weidl and Marlene Moore.
She is survived by her devoted children, Karen Kane (John), Claudia Gosline, Robert Mendick (with whom she resided) and Michael Mendick; 8 grandchildren; 10 great grandchildren; her sisters, Margaret Werfel and Jane Cooney (Steve); her brother, John Moore; sisters-in-law, June Kerkow, Betty Rodgers, Jane Moore, Shirley Moore, and Ruth Mendick; brother-in-law, Joe Weidl; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Fay loved to collect antiques and shopping fashion forward. She also loved camping in the endless mountains in her mobile home and having the family to her home for the holidays.
She was always a lady and the consummate homemaker, always gracious, and loved being with her family.
A woman of unwavering faith, Fay was a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Levittown for 50 years.
Services and interment will be held privately.
In lieu of flowers, do a kind deed for a neighbor or friend.