Rodney Dean Skillman (“Rod”) was born December 31, 1935 in Valley Springs, South Dakota. He passed away peacefully on July 23, 2022 in Minnesota at age 86. For several years, Rod had a series of health issues. Together, Rod and his wife Roselyn (“Roz”) endured these difficult times with strength and a positive outlook on life. Rod’s immediate family was by his side in the hospital during those final days. During that time, Roz received an outpouring of phone calls from concerned friends and loved-ones.
Rod graduated from Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1953. He attended the University of South Dakota during the school years 1953-1954 and served in the U.S. Army in Germany from 1954-1956. Thanks to the GI Bill, he again enrolled at the University of South Dakota in 1956 and graduated with a BS in Business Administration in 1959.
Rod’s college job as Manager of a high-end men’s clothing store foreshadowed his acumen for business and leadership. It’s possible this role may have also sparked the pride Rod took in his appearance - always a smart dresser!
Following graduation, Rod spent seven formative years working as an executive for Chambers of Commerce in Mason City, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa; and Mankato, Minnesota. Rod eventually planted roots in Mankato, MN where he established himself as an exemplary citizen, community leader, family man, and great friend to many. He was a man of generosity, compassion, grace, dignity, kindness, and thoughtfulness.
Rod had a dynamic career in business and as an entrepreneur. At the height of his career in the 1980s, he became President of American Western Corp (AWST - NASDAQ) which became a regional leader in manufacturing plastic bags and film. After the company was sold in 1989, Rod branched out to be involved with multiple business ventures. Too many to list them all, one such business included Phenix Biocomposites, an early innovator in “green” building materials. Rod also collaborated on a variety of business ventures with beloved family members.
One of Rod’s most definitive characteristics was his generosity. He gave and he forgave selflessly to those he loved. He took great pride in giving to charity and serving the community. Among many others, Rod volunteered as President of the Mankato YMCA, President Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Mankato, United Way, Bega Kwa Bega Mission caring for school children and digging wells in Africa and active in alumni orgations at the University of South Dakota (Recipient of Business School "Outstanding Alumnus" in 1988).
Rod was an avid outdoorsman, hiker, golfer and boater. His favorite hobby however was alpine skiing! If you ever had the chance to cruise with Rod on a powder day, you’ll know his unforgettable graceful, bird-like style, ear-to-ear smile and occasional “woohoo!” of joy.
Rod’s love for skiing crossed over to his professional life too. In 1967 he and a few other Mankato leaders raised funds and saved the local ski area, Ski Haven from becoming a housing development. By bringing in shareholders, they were able to buy more land, add runs and lifts, and improve snow-making and grooming equipment. Rod acted as Chairman of Ski Haven until it was sold to Afton Alps in 1977 and the name was changed to Mount Kato. (Thank you Rod from the many 1000’s of local kids who grew up skiing and snowboarding at Ski Haven & Mt Kato!).
Rod had a wanderlust. He did business in China, trekked in New Zealand, visited distant relatives in Sweden, celebrated his 70th birthday with his entire family in Tuscany, did mission work in Tanzania, heli-skiing with his sons in British Columbia, and many other adventures.
Rod and Roz spent their middle years living on Lake Washington outside Mankato, MN. Later in life, with an empty nest, they sold the Lake Washington home and would divide their time between two homes in the Desert Mountain Golf Community in Arizona and Arrowhead Resort in Colorado. Their home in Arrowhead, CO was unique in that it offered world-class golf in the summers and skiing in the winters. Really the icing on the retirement cake, many of their closest Minnesota friends retired to the same areas. Rod cherished these memories and friendships every day.
Rod and Roz moved back to Minnesota at his insistence to be close to family in the Spring of 2022. Rod took great pride in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Rod was preceded in death by his parents Doris (Swanson) and Lyle Skillman in addition to Marilyn Snider (Kimbal), Rod’s first wife and biological mother to Jodi and Bo. He will be missed greatly by his wife, Roselyn (Kroeger), sister Delores (McDonald), daughter Jodi (Butzer), two sons Brent (“Bo”) and Paul, grandkids Meaghan, Jake, Mollie, Ashley, Jordan, and Henrik, and 6 great-grandchildren. Also, he leaves behind two Burmese cats Sammy and Oliver.
Rod’s Celebration of Life service will be held at Lafayette Club 2800 Northview Rd, Minnetonka Beach, MN 55361 on August 18, 2022 starting at 11am. After the service, lunch will be served. In Lieu of Flowers, the family is requesting gifts be given to either 1) The YMCA of Mankato or 2) Saint Paul Partners (501c3) for clean water development in Tanzania Africa. Specifically, these gifts will provide a well in the village of Uleling’ombe.
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