Roderick W. Slater of Lexington died June 25

Roderick W. Slater, born April 24, 1937, in Goodrich, Mich., passed away in Lexington on June 25, 2019.

His widowed mother raised him and his brother in her boarding house with a 24-hour bridge game playing out in the kitchen and a dozen WWII vets as big brothers. He had traveled with her on a Greyhound bus to all 48 states before he was 12 years old. After spending two years in the army, he moved to Manhattan where he became audio visual director at Shell Oil. 

After the birth of his daughter, he transferred with the company to Houston, Texas, before relocating to the wilds of central Maine in the early 1970s to start a small farm so that she could learn where eggs come from. Among his many accomplishments during his 30-year residency, he started a small neighborhood school and discovered, somewhat by luck, that he could make a living from the artwork he had been passionately making his whole life. He lived out his final decade in Buena Vista, embracing the natives, tempered four seasons, and bucolic Blue Ridge Mountains.

Roderick Slater listened to people. All who knew him would agree that he knew how to listen. In many cases, it may have been the first time in their lives a person really listened to them. He was the stranger that entered one's life, knowing how to question and provoke your imagination to another level of perception. This guy from the Midwest who came to the coast with a dreamy plains innocence, who reveled in baseball, industry, and art. That eastern shoreline honed those prairie skills as his natural curiosity overturned stones no matter where he went. 

He directly touched the lives of hundreds of people; encouraging young people to pursue arts careers and live more intellectually rigorous lives. He helped thousands of people indirectly as those mentees payed forward the things he so generously taught, always for free, informally and with an abiding, if sometimes cantankerous, respect for the individual in front of him. His stitch in the rich fabric of human solidarity joins in the warp and weft of the long struggle toward a richer and more interesting humanity. He was deeply loved. We hope he has left us with enough bread crumbs in literature, philosophy and his 17,000 finished pieces of artwork, to lead us to the essential questions we could always rely on him to ask.

Rod was preceded in death by his parents Clara (Brandt) and John Slater of Lansing and Flint, Mich., and his brother and sister-in-law, the Rev. John and Alice Slater of Lincoln Park, Mich.  

He is survived by his daughter, Valerie Slater, son-in-law, two grandchildren he adored, his former wife, and two nephews.

Condolences may be sent to the family via:

Memorial donations can be made to Rockbridge Area Hospice, 315 Myers St., Lexington, VA 24450.


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