Obituary: Rodney Lehman

Great-grandfather, chemist, reader, traveler was 103

Rodney Lehman was born in 1920 on a snow-covered farm near Franklin Grove, Illinois, the first child of LeRoy and Lucile Lehman. A mile from the farm was a simple one-room schoolhouse where Rodney and his sister, Lorene, got their early education from a teacher who faithfully taught all eight grades. Hard times soon hit the farm belt, so in 1930 his small family headed west to Glendora to live with his recently widowed maternal grandfather.

His growing up years took place during the Great Depression in Glendora, and in 1937 he graduated from Citrus Union High School. With a combination of various work opportunities and family help, he managed to complete his higher education at La Verne College (now University of La Verne), graduating in 1941 with a degree in chemistry.

He was a conscientious objector during World War II and was assigned first to forestry camps in Oregon and later to Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. There he met and married a student nurse, Katherine, in 1945. They lived happily together for more than 60 years until her death.

The two began married life in California at his insistence. He began working as a soil chemist in Claremont. Life began to grow livelier when a daughter, Linda, was born in 1947.

He then moved on to a chemical lab position with Brogdex Company in Pomona, in a building full of citrus packing house machinery. In a few years he moved to a similar position with Food Machinery Corporation’s Citrus Division in Riverside, where he worked not only with citrus fruits, but with apples, soft fruits, melons, and even eggs. He was fascinated with the variety of challenges brought to the chemical lab and continued working for FMC for almost 30 years, until he retired in 1982.

Retirement found the couple living in Diamond Bar, where he enjoyed playing lots of tennis and golf with friends. Later they moved back to Claremont. Each year the couple took a major trip to numerous places around the world.

Because of his inquisitive mind and scientific background, he was an avid reader and researched a wide variety of subjects that caught his interest, from religion and the afterlife to gardening and the stock market. His family was amazed at his ability to discuss almost any topic in an intelligent manner.

Not a joiner of clubs or groups, he limited his activities to those at the Presbyterian Church in Diamond Bar, and later at Claremont United Church of Christ. For a few years he was also active with Habitat for Humanity and the Joslyn Senior Center in Claremont. His last years were happily spent at Mount San Antonio Gardens retirement community in Pomona.

He is survived by his daughter, Linda Davidson, of Prescott, Arizona; grandson, Mark Davidson, of Prescott Valley, Arizona; granddaughter, Cheryl Uresti, of Chino Hills; and great-granddaughter, Ava Uresti, also of Chino Hills.

Donations in his memory may be made to the University of La Verne scholarship fund at, or by check to 1950 Third St., La Verne, CA 91750.

The family wishes to express its heartfelt appreciation to the staff for the excellent care, love, and support he received at Mt. San Antonio Gardens during his many years there.

A graveside service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, November 25 at Claremont United Church of Christ’s Memorial Garden, 233 Harrison Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.


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