Former Greater Sudbury mayor and Nickel Belt MP John R. Rodriguez died July 5, 2017 at the age of 80. He is remembered as an eloquent speaker and passionate politician.
Resting at the Lougheed Funeral Home (252 Regent Street at Hazel St., Sudbury) on Monday, July 10 from 2 -5 pm and 7-9 pm, with parish prayers at 7:30 pm. Monday. Funeral Mass in St. Patrick’s Church (39 Walford Rd., Sudbury) Tuesday, July 11 at 10 am. Cremation with interment in the family plot at the Park Lawn Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to the St. David School “John Rodriguez Bursary Fund” are welcomed and appreciated.
The political career of John Rodriguez began long before he became mayor of the municipality of Greater Sudbury in 2006. After one term, he was defeated by Marianne Matichuk in 2010.
In fact, it started more than 40 years ago. After many years as a Catholic school, Rodriguez assumed the role of president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers‘ Association (OECTA) in 1969.
The following year, Rodriguez took his first plunge into the world of municipal politics when he was elected as a town councillor in Coniston.
But his political life took a turn when Coniston was amalgamated into the Town of Nickel Centre in 1972. Instead of seeking re-election there, Rodriguez set his sights on federal politics. That year, he defeated Liberal Gaetan Serre to become the Member of Parliament, representing the New Democratic Party, in the riding of Nickel Belt.
Rodriguez was subsequently re-elected twice before being unseated by Liberal candidate Judy Erola in 1980. But in 1984, he defeated Erola to reclaim his seat. Rodriguez retained his position in the 1988 election. In the Liberal sweep of 1993, he lost his seat to Liberal Ray Bonin.
He then retired from federal politics. And it was back to the classroom.
Thirteen years later, Rodriguez returned to municipal politics. In the summer of 2006, he announced his intention to run for mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury – a campaign endorsed by former mayor, Jim Gordon, among others.
On Nov. 13, Rodriguez won a hotly contested election, taking 51.9 percent of the vote over incumbent David Courtemanche.
Rodriguez was born in Guyana, where he received his elementary and high school education. He immigrated to Canada in 1956 and attended teachers’ college in Toronto and began his teaching career in St. Catharines. He and his wife, Bertilla, moved to Coniston in 1962.
He has a bachelor of arts degree in English and Spanish literature from Laurentian University.
From his obituary
It is with heavy hearts that the Rodriguez family announces the death of its patriarch, John Rodriguez. Like so many, John came to Canada in search of a better life. He embraced this country, its history and everything it stood for. Through his various careers as a teacher and politician, and also as a community volunteer and activist, John worked tirelessly to improve the human condition and to encourage others to reach their full potential. John came to Canada from British Guyana at 18 years of age, on his own, not knowing anyone and with only $50 in his pocket. From there, he built a family, a life and a legacy. John is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years, Bertilla (Bobbato) and his five sons, Damian (Sheryl), Brendan (Mary Perry), Derek, Declan (Mary), and Emlyn. Proud grandfather (Nonno) to his grandchildren Jared, Kennedy, Macy Grace, Jannah (Curtis), Holly and Violet, and dear great-grandfather to Kaiah and Murphie. John was predeceased by his parents Gloria and Clement Rodrigues and is survived by his sister, Anne, of Mississauga (daughter Anne Marie), and his sister-in-law, Jane Rodrigues of Coniston (children Matthew and Sara). John, in addition to his commitment to serving his community and his passion for politics at the federal and municipal levels, loved to spend time with Bertilla enjoying theatre at Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake, gardening, and watching classic movies and the Blue Jays games. He enjoyed the annual family fishing trips with his sons (though he never did catch much!) Another great passion of John’s was horse racing and he spent many evenings at Sudbury Downs, beating the program against his hand and cheering his horses home. The family will always remember their epic adventure to Italy in 2013 with 16 family members, great food, much wine, and endless laughter. John will also be fondly remembered by special family friends Janet Lovelady and Kyle Beaudry, as well as his many students, and the staff and colleagues with whom he had the pleasure to work.
A quote from his favourite novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull: “You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.” John lived his life according to this quote from poet Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”