Longtime South Jersey fishing and outdoor writer Lou Rodia, who died Wednesday at 88, was remembered by his colleagues as an amazingly productive journalist, a visionary public servant and a consummate angler.
“Over the years, he probably turned out more amount of writing than any of us,” said Ben Callaway, a fellow outdoor writer.
Rodia, a longtime resident of Cape May Court House, served in Europe with the U.S. Army in World War II and got a job out of Temple University as a reporter, photographer and columnist with the weekly Wildwood Leader in 1952. He also worked for the Cape May County Gazette for five years before serving for 25 years as the Cape May County public affairs director.
After his retirement from the county in 1988, Rodia edited a paper called Eastern Outdoors and contributed to the Shoppe, Doylestown Intelligencier, Philadelphia Daily News, Cape May Star and Wave, Ocean City Sentinel Ledger and The Press of Atlantic City.
“Lou and Ben Callaway got me into outdoor and fishing writing, I can’t remember how long ago, (maybe) 30 to 35 years ago,” said Press fishing columnist Mike Shepherd. “When I took over The Press fishing contest, Lou helped me out in the early stages. ... Whenever anybody mentioned his name, it was always, ‘Hey, Lou wrote something and you didn’t,’ or the other way around. But I always had an answer: he’s my hero.”
Callaway, 86, called Rodia and himself “The Last of the Mohicans.”
“I first met Lou when I moved back in 1957 from working for the Denver Post in Colorado to the Daily News in Philadelphia,” Callaway said. “They wanted me to write an outdoor column, and coming from Colorado, except for trout fishing with a fly rod, I knew nothing about it. So my first encounter with saltwater fishing at the shore was when I met Lou at a tackle shop down in Wildwood, and he was very, very helpful.”
Rodia, Callaway said, was “a do-it-all guy. He could rig baits, fight fish, work on the engines of boats — he could do everything. And he fished everything from sea bass up to white marlin. He did it all, and he had enthusiasm for it.”
Eileen Abadie, Rodia’s companion for 29 years, said that Rodia joked he had two vices: “Fishing and hunting.”
“He started freshwater fishing at the age of 6 at his home in Stratford, (Camden County),” Abadie said. “He never learned how to swim, because when he saw water, he put a fishing pole in it.”
Gerald Thornton, Cape May County’s freeholder director, said Rodia was “a real asset to the county of Cape May” as public relations director.
“I worked with him for many years,” Thornton said. “Our Department of Tourism was really created by Lou Rodia. He was such a driving force behind tourism in the county of Cape May. Any success we have had in the tourism department, he was the foundation. ... And he was very kind to me as a young freeholder.”
The current head of the Department of Tourism, Diane Wieland, recalled how Rodia’s initiatives really invigorated the marketing of the county.
“In the beginning, it was all about fishing, birding and beaches,” Wieland said. “Before he retired, he really started the ‘shoulder season.’ And he started ‘writers’ weekends’ where he invited 30 to 40 journalists to come down.”
Rodia also began the initiative to promote the county at travel shows, as well as opening the county’s tourism office in Canada.
‘He really left his mark on tourism in the county,” Wieland said.
Rodia is survived by his sons, Bill, of Phoenix, Ariz., and Louie, of Trenton. Funeral arrangements had not been set Thursday.
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