I interviewed Raul Rodriguez earlier this week via telephone. Raul was born to Edmundo and Guadalupe (Lupe) in Chinatown’s “Dodgers Hospital”- making him a lifelong Elysian Valley resident. Raul’s dad was born in El Paso, TX and his mother Lupe was an LA native. He is one of four (4) brothers (Ricardo, David and Edmundo Jr.). His family ties to EV date back to his grandparents’ (Cruz and Adelina) initial property purchase on Glover St. in 1942.
Raul is married to Christine, the love of his life for 30 years. Together they have a son (Issac ELoy Rodriguez) who is their next-door neighbor on Shoredale Ave. Raul has lived at their current property since 1960. His older brother Ricardo – a retired mail carrier for our area – lives on Gatewood St.
Raul was raised in the Catholic faith and remembers attending St. Ann’s Catholic Church on Blake and Riverdale Ave. with Fr. O’Brian as the head priest. He attended Dorris Place Elementary School, Irving Middle School and Marshall High School. He played right side tackle varsity football for Marshall High and admits not being very good. Raul thought about quitting and credits his coach for not doing so. He told me “Don’t quit, you’ll regret it all your life, just do the best you can”.
“Growing up in Elysian Valley was fun,” says Raul. He and childhood friend Bill Medina (Dallas St) spent a great deal of time on the LA River and in the hills of Elysian Park. “We were always close to Nature.” Raul credits his 2ndgrade Dorris Place Elementary School teacher (Ms. Jenkins) for his love of water and nature. She read to his class “Diver Dan” whose character was always on the water and in nature. “I wanted to be just like Diver Dan,” says Raul.
Raul attended Los Angeles Community College and Pasadena City College and went on to graduate from UCLA with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Geography. With a full paid scholarship in hand, Raul attended the University of Michigan’s graduate program in 1978. It was at UM that he and Christine met.
While there, he was in a car accident (on his way to a field study site with his professor). Their vehicle was rear ended by a steel hauler big rig and pushed onto incoming traffic. Professor Everett Bannister tragically died and Raul was seriously injured. Given only a 50/50 chance of survival and with Christine and his mother by his side, Raul emerged from the depths of death after three months in the hospital, to prove the doctors disability prognosis wrong. Raul went into business for himself making drawings/maps for published books. With a don’t quit attitude in life, he applied every year for five years to the California Dept. of Fish and Game. He went on to work for and retire from them after 21 years working with endangered species in the San Bernardino Mountains/Big Bear area. Retiring as an Associate Fisheries Biologist.
When asked to identify what he likes most about Elysian Valley, Raul is quick to point to the area’s central location and the convenience this affords residents to go anywhere. He too loves the area weather, which Raul describes as “perfectly moderate-the result of an ocean breeze received in EV.”
Raul recognizes that change is inevitable and welcomes the many infrastructure improvements that are underway in large part because of said change. He nonetheless regrets the previously unimaginable million dollar housing market that is pricing out “working class people” in Elysian Valley.
Raul loves wood-working, makes walking sticks and all things wood. “I enjoy working with my hands”. I love the smell of wood or lumber, he says. He believes he gets said passion from his dad, who was first a CB (construction battalion) in the navy, and an apprentice carpenter before going to work for the post office. Raul likes the Dodgers and is a fan of Michael Jordan. He is also a fan of singers John Denver and Canadian country star Gordon Lightfoot. “Both are close to nature as I am,” says Raul.
Not surprisingly, Raul’s favorite animal is the American beaver. “He is industrious, works all the time, is a builder and like me does not get out much,” says Raul. If given the opportunity to meet anyone past or present, he would like to meet Leonardo da Vinci. “He was a renaissance man, an architect, a wood worker and a visionary”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has kept Raul from seeing friends, getting more exercise and generally taken a toll on him both physically and mentally, limiting his desire to get out and do things as before.
Raul wants to be remembered as a good person, as someone who helped all he could. If today was his last day on earth, he would tell his loved ones to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, take pride in what you do, hurt no one and don’t let anyone hurt you.”
Raul Rodriguez is an Elysian Valley success story.