Rodney Betters McLeod (along with his identical twin, Greg) was born 70 years ago in Hammond, Indiana to Peggy Durham McLeod and Gordon Donald McLeod, joining elder brothers Gordie and Doug. Sister Katie was to follow. Greg remembers Rod’s award-winning science fair projects and his participation in Boy Scouts, history clubs, and the swim team. Katie remembers an imaginative, kind, and fun older brother, who brought joy to the train trips to Bozeman every summer to visit both sets of grandparents by racing through the coaches and up into the dome cars wearing the cardboard engineer hats. Rod loved trains and later traveled solo by train throughout Europe. Doug recalls going with Rod into NYC to see Rodney Dangerfield, and Rod's enjoyment of comedy. Rodney graduated from Albion College in Michigan with dual majors in Economics and History.
Rod’s life would change at age 29. He had worked a variety of jobs in retail accounting and sales in Michigan and New Jersey when he showed up at his sister’s in Montana, his appearance disguised, and fearful that he was under surveillance because he had information that would cause World War III. The serious mental illness that would define the rest of his life had taken hold and Rod would accomplish his most amazing feat: living life well with schizophrenia.
Rod’s parents retired to Montana, becoming active in NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness), doing everything they could to assist Rod (they had some experience dealing with schizophrenia because our older brother, Gordie, also had it). Rod had hospitalizations in New Jersey and Warm Springs, but when he was out of the mental hospital, he appreciated living independently. Later, with effective medication and supportive living in the Bozeman mental health campus, Rod had some good years.
Rod enjoyed cooking, even after he had lost his teeth, delighting in all the concoctions he could make in his blender. With the help of brother Doug, Rod enjoyed trips to Hawaii and Florida. Short drives to Butte, Ennis, Yellowstone Park, Gallatin ponds, and to the airport with his cooler of soda gave Rod great pleasure. Rod looked forward to Greg, Doug, and Gordie visiting with their families with picnics at Hyalite, trips to the park, meals at Katie’s, and Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Katie and family provided a home base for Rod, sharing holidays, welcoming Rod on his random visits and conversations.
The phone provided a lifeline for Rod. Up until these last two years, he spoke to his twin, Greg, in Florida nearly every day. Doug welcomed Rod’s calls - no matter if he was in Brazil or Russia. Rod’s nieces and nephews picked up the phone whenever they could. The conversation was generally interesting; Ruth has saved his messages. After Hayden and Fletcher went off to college, Rod was proud to report whenever he had a 20-minute phone conversation with his nephews. Cousins Debbie, Nancy, Kevin, Margo, and Raelee spoke to Rod on the phone for many years.
It is impossible to list all the guardian angels that Rod had over the past 40 years in Bozeman (also Butte and Warm Springs), including the mental and medical health workers, doctors, nurses, case workers, police, judges, store clerks, and others in our community. Thank you to the young mothers who allowed their children to get Halloween candy from Rod as he passed out treats on Main Street. Thank you to the teenagers who visited with Rod at McDonalds. Thank you to the college students who had conversations with Rod at Starbucks. Thank you to the mental health volunteers who led coffee groups. Thank you to the angels who work at Hope House. And thank you to the person who helped Rod ride the scooter cart at Walmart just days before he died.
Rod’s behavior had become more erratic during the last two years. He went to Warm Springs, was released after six days, and disappeared. When he miraculously returned, he was in poor health. The pandemic and diminished mental health services have been hard on the mentally ill. Rod passed away from complications of heart failure and schizophrenia on October 14, 2023.
Rodney was preceded in death by his parents; his aunt, Eleanor McLeod Smith; and his brother, Gordon Charles McLeod.
Those who survive Rod and have benefitted from the miracle of his life are his siblings, Greg McLeod (Vickie), Doug McLeod, and Katie McLeod Harvey (Scott); nephews, Hayden and Fletcher Harvey (Sarah); nieces, Ruthie, Andrea, Duda, and Sofia McLeod; and cousins, Debbie, Nancy, Kevin, Margo and Raelee.
Those who wish to memorialize Rod may donate to a mental health organization of their choice, write letters in support of legislation to improve mental health services, volunteer, and continue being kind to those who are different.
There will be a family memorial gathering next summer.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com [dokkennelson.com]