Rodney Archie Zenk was born in Lemmon, S.D., on Sept. 14, 1938. He shared his birthday with his mother-in-law Ruth, and his granddaughter Ashley. Rod went to be with his Lord and Savior on Christmas Day, 2020.
He is survived by his wife Kaye; daughter Stacy and son-in-law Jared; granddaughter Ashley and her three daughters; grandson David; stepdaughter Debbie and husband Mike and family; stepdaughter Denise and husband Dennis and their family; sister-in-law Pat and her family; sisters-in-law Sonja and Betty and their families; and nieces Jami and Jennifer whose parents Dan and Connie are in Heaven with him.
Rod was preceded in death by his parents Andy and Myril Zenk, sister Paula and her son Bruce, brothers Perry and Bruce, step-grandson Matthew, brothers-in-law Jim and Dan, and sister-in-law Connie.
During World War II, Rod and family lived in Vallejo, Calif., where his father Andy was stationed at the Mare Island Naval Base. In 1947, Andy was discharged from Mare Island and the family moved to Wilmot, S.D. Rod loved growing up in Wilmot. Over the years he returned for annual homecoming events and class reunions. Rod was president of his senior class as well as Homecoming King. Rod and his brothers participated in all the athletic events.
Rod graduated from South Dakota State College in 1960, with a BA in fish and wildlife. He participated in the ROTC program at SDSC and entered the US Army as a second lieutenant. He volunteered for Army Ranger school — a dream of his since seeing a movie at age 11 where he learned about airborne rangers. Rod was extremely and humbly proud of his service for our country during the 1960s, serving under President Kennedy’s covert operations as an Army Airborne Ranger.
Rod and Kaye married in Los Angeles on May 27, 1983. In 1985, he made the life-saving decision to quit drinking, became very active in AA and was sober every day from that time until his death. He said next to God and marrying Kaye, living a sober life was one of the most important decisions in his life. Every year for 15 years while in California, they opened their land to host a 12-step weekend. Over the years, more than 1,200 friends and family attended this weekend. He continued being active in meetings, working with others and helping in starting the now yearly Men’s Retreat in Walker.
Rod’s work career included being instrumental in the building of the first Job Corps facility in the U.S. He spent many productive years with the FDA, including being asked by Sen. Ted Kennedy to come to Washington, D.C., to present his work on the quality of meals being prepared for school lunches. As a result of this presentation, some major changes were implemented nationally. He also owned and ran a painting company for several years.
Then the effects of injuries during his military career began to take over his life. They decided to follow their dream of living in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When Rod began to need several major surgeries, they moved to Walker to be closer to Kaye’s relatives. His last 15 months were spent in Missouri with Stacy and family. This was time everyone was grateful to have with him.
A Celebration of Rod’s life will be held at Calvary Church in Walker June 5 at 1:30 p.m.
Online condolences for the family maybe left at www.northernpeace.com
Rod’ care has been entrusted to the Northern Peace Funeral Home of Walker, Minn.