Rather, his death, at age 78, was attributed to prostate cancer run amok.
Rodger howled at every full moon. Recited poetry in the right situations. Never passed by a tree without commenting on its beauty - even in winter. He romanticized the smell of rotting leaves and called the wind Mariah. Up until the end, he made Gail, his wife of 35 years, blush with his mush. He knew and sang the most-dreamy songs. The Impossible Dream appealed to his quixotic nature. Girl From Ipanema (which he learned to play on his guitar while going through chemo) transported him to Rio. Not surprising, he was a Francophile. Working in the then glamourous business of advertising for 40 years, in its Mad Men era and then some, was perfect for this self-professed dilettante, where he held senior positions on iconic brands at agencies Cunningham & Walsh, Ayer, McCann, and Thompson. He even romanticized commuting. First from Rye, New York and then from New Canaan for the last 20 of his Madison Avenue years.
“Redeem the insignificant” was one of his mantras. And boy did he ever. Take shaving - always with a straight edge razor and Bond Street creams; barbequing (charcoal only); loading the dishwasher turned into an artform, and all the rides to and from chemo at MSKCC where he and Gail would blast the radio. He always said he felt fine. That’s because he wouldn’t let a little pain rain on his parade. His achingly beautiful joyful parade full of so much love of family, friends, dogs, travel, books, oceans, rivers (tear down obsolete dams!), guitars, maps, sunrises, sunsets, wood-burning fires, Dunkin’ Donuts sweet rolls, the Rose Bowl, Mustangs, bossa nova…and the fascinating miracle of life.
Rodg was a gentleman sportsman who fly fished in waters from Patagonia to Alaska; from Lake Parmachenee in Maine to the Tongue River in Wyoming. He sailed in shores as far away as the BVI and as close as the Long Island Sound. He, Gail and often with Maggie, their daughter, rode horses annually at the HF Bar Ranch in Saddlestring, Wyoming. He played squash at the University Club five days a week for decades. He was a great shot, whether at Sandanona or in Santiago. He liked the game of golf, but mostly because of friendships on the course. A highlight was golfing in Ireland with his sons, Brian and Peter, for his 70th birthday. He was a lifetime member of the Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited and was passionate about conservation. He and Gail chased snow for 25 consecutive years with their dear friends, Hugh and Sam Spencer. And through most of those years, he could be seen whipping down the slopes, whether in Aspen or Courmayeur, in the same blue and neon-yellow one-piecer.
Rodger grew up in Altadena, California and Balboa Island with his brother, Geoff, who he always idolized, his beautiful sister, Linda Arellano, and loving parents, Maggie and Clifford Groves. His mother thought he was the ‘peanutiest’ and instilled in him confidence (and a bit of swagger) from an early age. She loved his Elvis impressions and just about everything else he did. Rodger attended the University of California, Berkeley (GO BEARS!) for both undergraduate and business school. He often recalled his endlessly fun fraternity days as a Psi U and maintained very close friendships with several brothers throughout his life. After college, Rodg served in the Army at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, where he held the rank of Second Lieutenant.
Rodger’s wife, Gail Sheffler, his seven ridiculously fabulous children, Brian (Katy) Groves, Courtney Groves, Peter (Sameena) Groves and Maggie (Tim Nee) Groves, along with his six entertaining and always thoughtful grandchildren, Lindsay, Peter, Schuyler, Wyatt, Zadie and Jackson, will host a celebration of Rodger’s life next month at Shenorock Shore Club, which has been like a second home for 50 years. At this gathering, we’ll boast about him being Paul Newman’s doppelganger and how he and his daughter Courtney finished all those Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles collaboratively. We’ll toast his warm, deep voice that was made for radio and think of his genuine smile. We can talk about his unwavering frustration over the Mets, his weakness for frozen strawberry margaritas, how he was the definition of a gentleman, and that he loved being a Popi to his crew. But mostly how proud he was of all the right the choices his family made. Barbara Groves, his first wife, with whom he fathered his first three children, will be there, of course, as she has been throughout his well-lived life.