Cover photo for Rodney Leon Spitzock's Obituary
Rodney Leon Spitzock Profile Photo

Rodney Leon Spitzock

December 14, 1953 — June 10, 2023

Mancelona

Rodney Leon Spitzock

    Rodney Leon Spitzock had time for a quick picture the day before he eased on off.

   He was born, at Saint Mary of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago, Illionois, weighing 9 pounds 1 ounce and 22 inches in length, on December 14, 1953, to Raymond (4/20/16-1/6/74) and Marie Encezziano Spitzock (4/11/1915-1/6/2016) of Jefferson Park. The youngest of four children, Rodney Spitzock was baptized April 4th, 1954, in St. Veronica Church on North Whipple St., Chicago. The family home where he grew up was a two-story brick bungalow on the corner of Catalpa Street and North Luna, as an adult he would later in life return to inhabit the basement.  

  Attached to the back of the house was a wooded stairs and screened in porch, this was where Rodney’s mother Marie would wash the family’s laundry using a standing electric wringer washing machine. Marie was a modern woman, who in addition to the domestic chores was employed at Zennith for fifty years holding a position on the assembly line assembling color televisions. One day while washing clothes, she heard the phone ring and just stepped back inside to answer, leaving Rodney, who was not yet two years old, standing by the machine. He had been watching the rollers for some time and knew not to touch them but that sliver of space reflecting everything between the rollers was what he couldn't resist trying to touch.  The machine grabbed his fingertip and within two heartbeats pulled him in and had Rodney flattened up to his elbow. His mother seemed to instantly reappear and immediately opened the release to unlock the rollers from their position. Being so young, Rod’s bones were still soft enough not to break, the only damage done was where his skin had been pinched and split open. The experience left a lightning bolt scar on his right forearm. Rod’s mother felt that he would be better off playing outside and encouraged his sisters Jan and Noreen to keep a careful eye on their little brother.

   Rodney Spitzock graduated elementary from St. Cornelius School June 4, 1967.  It was during the early years, Rodney found he had an ear for music, not just able to appreciate a soundscape but he could play any instrument proficiently if he took a little time to practice. His formal education had taught him how to read music. Rod would find joy in the discovery of a broken wind-up music box, he had a special talent and with a light hand would tinker with the mechanics and bend the prongs to tune, until the box would play its tune perfectly again. His love of music included everything from Christmas carols to Zappa, his favorite band was the Rolling Stones.

  Rodney Spitzock started each new day as early as he could, always excited to greet a new dawn. Rodney had numerous different jobs during his life.  He held fond memories of his first gainful employment helping his brother Ron deliver milk in Chicago. The rush moving quickly threw the city, accessing many different places through tiny cinder alleys entrances, and the sense of accomplishment at the end of a run where all things enjoyed but it was the time spent with his older brother Ron that Rodney most cherished.

   He played football for Saint Paterick High School, 1967-1971, quitting mid-season before graduation.  One day, during an after-school practice, Spitzock had been instructed by the coach to “Hit as Hard as he could!”. At 6 feet 2 inches, weighing 280 pounds, Rodney saw the very real possibility of someone getting hurt if he followed along. When called to line up for the next play across from smaller less experienced freshman players, Rod refused to take his position as tight end, took off his helmet, tucked it under his arm and walked home. This ended his enrollment in high school.  He never regretted his decision or looked back. Through the years Rodney remained a big fan of the game (GO BEARS!).   and found other benefits from his size. He discovered that he could pull down a fire escape ladder and he helped many a new friend threw the top row of windows at the Congressional Theatre for a free rock n roll show!  Offering to carry band equipment also found another way in.  Rodney would offer to help move equipment and enjoyed the comradery and advantages of being a roadie. 

   In 1975, Rodney completed course work and exams, earning his GED from Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois.

   Rodney was self-motivated and found he had a knack for construction specialties like mudding drywall and laying water pipe. Ample self-employment opportunities were available for a kid with a little hustle. For a little while Rodney had a van and did odd plumbing jobs around the city.  This led to many an adventure, and a practical understanding that made him a helpful friend that could set a toilet. He put his skills and sense of humor to work as maintenance for Desiderius, a hotel in Chicago, specializing in discretion.  

  Rodney Spitzock married Karen Preston on September 4, 1980, and shared the adventure until an amical divorce on June 19th, 1985, in Cook County.

  He returned to Oakton Community College in 1982, received a diploma from The Institute of Broadcast Arts in CATV construction and installation and again in 1984 to take classes in building management, maintaining a 3.oo GPA.  The courses offered in servicing vending machines he found satisfying, they provided answers for his curiosity on the organization of mechanics that had fascinated him since childhood.

   For a year in the early eighties, Rodney co-owned a hot dog stand “U-Guys” on Irving Park Road.   The business model was simple; sell enough higher end products to cover expenses. On one of the first evenings Rodney was closing the restaurant by himself, he cleaned the kitchen, gathering trash from the bins, throwing away unsold food, finished by sweeping the floor, dumped the dustpan contains on top and took the consolidated bag of garbage out to the dumpster in back. Always aware of his surroundings, he noticed a man waiting in the dark, Rodney threw the bag in the dumpster, turned and before he had made it back inside, the man had gone to pull the garbage out.  The realization that the man was desperately hungry and was going to eat whatever he could find gave Rodney a sick feeling. From then on, Rodney would always make sure he bagged the food waste separately from the trash. Rod didn't feel right knowing another human was eating from a dumpster. After a couple of weeks, things had progressed to Rod making up the mostly full pan of hot dogs at the end of the day, wrapping them like a to-go order and passing the food out the back door. This still didn't feel quite right to him so one night when handing off the food he told the person just to come into the front of the restaurant at closing time to pick up at the counter as if it were just another take out order.  Sixty-five cents; two quarters, a dime, and a nickel, a person could buy a cup of coffee and a "piece of dunk bread”. Rod would look them in the eye and ask if they “would like a bowl of chili or soup that comes with that?” Word of good food and gracious behavior spread quickly. Within six months, the place was bustling with activity functioning as a community soup kitchen and over stressed restaurant. Rod’s time was split between the kitchen and counter, but as things got livelier, Rod became the security up front when fights would break out among patrons.  A small kitchen fire where no one was hurt was a survivable misfortune but the flood of water the Chicago Fire department's enthusiastic use of water made the entire place a total loss. Although not a financial success, owning a restaurant had been something that Rodney had dreamed of doing at least once and remembered the experience as a time in his life he enjoyed because it was a time when all his friends were together. 

    Rodney Spitzock was a registered Notary Public from 1984-1988 in Cook County, State of Illinois. In 1987 he was certified by HBO as completed the “Pro-Sell: A Direct Sales Training Program”. In 1988, he received certificates of achievement and appreciation from Group W Cable for completing the professional sales training course and for excelling in his “contribution to connecting community”.

  During the eighties and nineties, Rodney saw the Cubs play baseball on Wrigley Field.

   In the 1990’s Rodney Spitzock worked door to door sales, spending 1991 to 1999 as a regional salesman for J.S. Paluch Company Incorporated selling corporate advertising. From March 1997 to April 1990, Rodney worked for the Westinghouse Corporation.  Always looking for more to do, he also sold advertising spaces to local businesses in the neighborhood church bulletins.  

   Rodney threw himself into a variety of hobbies including drinking. He developed a clown persona based on BoBo Barnett, had a garage band and enjoyed time with the Abate of Illinois Chicago Chapter as a contestant in the annual Chili cooking competition and rode in rally for a Toys for Tots drive.  In the mid-nineties to 2003 Rodney rode to the annual Sturgis rally on his bike.

   The novel weekend cocktail became long island ice teas and afternoons at the neighborhood bar “Bucket of Suds”, then culminating in a half gallon of vodka being the daily habit. To have said he was a functional alcoholic would be understating the charismatic drunk everyone loved.  His health visibly suffered with the lifestyle. 

  On January 1, 2001, Rodney Spitzock quit drinking.  He suffered severe withdrawals and credited his brother-in-law Chuck Cicero with saving his life by getting him out of the basement and into a hospital. 

  After a biopsy, Rod received a medical diagnosis of “stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver”, Rodney refused the referral to be placed on a list for a liver transplant and began an arduous journey of recovery focused on self-care.  Spitzock followed a strict diet that completely excluded salt and white sugar and maintained his sobriety.  Rodney gained unacceptance and a new perspective.  He survived the transformation to remake himself again.

 Rodney Spitzock and Michelle Lennington become seasonal partners, splitting time between Chicago and northern Michigan depending on the weather.  They sparked together, celebrated their own holidays and grew to share all the seasons.

  By 2007, Rodney recovered enough to return to work.  He became a full-time salesman at George S. May International Company and on weekends delivered bouquets for Kays House of Flowers. By the end of 2008 he was recognized as having sold over one million dollars in management consulting services and was at the top of his game again.

   In 2011, He moved up north to change the pace of life.  He obtained a Michigan CDL endorsement on his driver's license and registered as a patient and as a caregiver with the Marijuana Regulatory Agency. He worked as a budtender at one of the first medical marijuana provisioning centers in Traverse City, while settling on a family farm in Antrim County. Rodney really liked the face-to-face interaction with people that retail sales brought but the daily commute was draining, especially in the winter. 

  Rodney wanted a job where he could more directly help people out.  He passed a background check and provided a clean urine sample so he could work in Bellaire at a call center. His job was to help connect payments to accessible debit cards for people. Most of the clients he spoke to were stressed, living on the verge of collapse. Rodney used his gifted telephone voice to calm frustrated people and provide compassionate assistance.  He found the work stressful but satisfying.

  Rodney relocated locally into Mancelona and found himself living in a community that reminded him of the city of his childhood. The pandemic forced Rodney into early retirement and into a social bubble occupied by two.

  Rod had hernia repair surgery that was successful. He never caught covid but had picked up C.O.P.D. as a weighty companion. Rod endured constant head and neck pain, a reminder of a fall on an icy sidewalk from 2007.

  On November 26, 2021, Rodney collapsed at home, by late January of 2022 he received the second dire medical diagnosis of his life; lung cancer.  He refused to give in. After a biopsy provided confirmation, he chose to decline treatments of chemo, radiation and surgery.  Rodney adjusted his diet but lost weight.

  Rodney’s optimism never faltered, he re-found the joy in waking early in the morning without a job and took care to return to hobbies he enjoyed, like darning socks under poor lighting, mowing his lawn and continued to keep a current fishing license.

   Rodney was pronounced deceased by Emergency Medical Service at 9:15pm in his bed at home in Mancelona, June 10, 2023, at the age of 69.

 Survived by his brother Ronald and wife Rosemary Spitzock, his sister Janice Peters, Chuck Cicero, many cousins, nephews and nieces.  Preceded in death by his parents, his sister Noreen Cicero, brother-in-law Paul Peters and niece Erica Peters, Rodney will be greatly missed by family and many friends.

Cremains welcomed to rest within Caretakers Cemetery in Messigeesee.

Arrangements are under the care of the Mancelona Chapel of Mortensen Funeral Homes.  Please sign his online guestbook at www.mortensenfuneralhomes.com

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