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Latrobe native chose IBM over NFL

Brian Bowling
| Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 9:45 a.m.
Mr. Henry J. Rodgers Jr., 76, of Hyde Park, N.Y., died Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.
Mr. Henry J. Rodgers Jr., 76, of Hyde Park, N.Y., died Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.

Latrobe native Henry Rodgers won a lot of sports awards in high school and college but also had a science fair ribbon and ultimately decided on a future with IBM instead of the National Football League, his daughter said.

“In the early '60s, football was maybe a couple of grand for a couple of years, and IBM offered him a full career ride,” Lissa Townsend Rodgers said.

He kept his interest in football, particularly the Steelers. On Oct. 22, during a visit with his brother in Latrobe, he watched the Steelers beat the Bengals.

“They got to watch one last Steelers victory together, which was very important to him,” she said.

Mr. Henry J. Rodgers Jr. of Hyde Park, N.Y., died Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. He was 76.

He was born on Aug. 25, 1941, in Latrobe, the son of the late Henry J. Rodgers Sr. and Mary (Rosko) Rodgers. After graduating from high school, he went to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., on an athletic-academic scholarship, his daughter said. He earned a bachelor's degree in math, went to work for IBM as a technical writer and moved to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he met his wife, Irene Townsend. They married in 1966.

He returned to Pennsylvania to obtain a master of business administration degree from the University of Pittsburgh. After he completed his degree in 1967, the couple returned to Poughkeepsie, and he held a variety of managerial and executive positions at IBM.

Joining other IBM employees to create the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, he held several positions in the credit union, including chairman. He received a national volunteer of the year award from the National Association of Federal Credit Unions in 1990.

He retired after 36 years with IBM, opened his own consulting firm and became an adjunct professor of economics at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.

“He was a loving family man,” said longtime friend Pat Lahey, of Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Rodgers and Lahey's husband had a shared interest in imported beers, and they took frequent day trips to area festivals, she said.

“If they had beer, we were there,” Lahey said.

His other interests included good cigars and growing roses, she said.

Mr. Rodgers kept up on current events and had a wide range of interests that made him an interesting conversationalist, she said.

“He could talk about just about anything …,” she said. “He was always reading a good book.”

When he was in high school, Mr. Rodgers used to sneak away from school dances to listen to groups performing at Harry's Danceland in Latrobe, his daughter said. A fan of R&B and jazz, some of his favorite performers included Earth, Wind & Fire, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations and Miles Davis.

He served on the board of the Mill Street Loft, a community nonprofit that helps fund arts education for disadvantaged youth, she said.

“He was a big man. He had a really big heart. He had a big appetite for life,” his daughter said.

Mr. Rodgers is survived by his wife, Irene “Reenie” Rodgers; daughter Lissa Townsend Rodgers of Las Vegas; son Andrew Rodgers and his wife, Anna, of Marshall, Mich.; and a granddaughter.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at St. John the Evangelist Church, 306 St. John Drive, Latrobe. Sweets Funeral Home in Hyde Park, N.Y., is handling arrangements.

Memorial donations may be made to the Mill Street Loft, www.millstreetloft.org, or the Bardavon Opera House, www.bardavon.org.

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1218, bbowling@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribBrian.

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