Dave Roddy was a world-renowned scientist at the forefront of investigators studying impact and explosion craters. His field mapping of Flynn Creek was the first mapping detailed enough to demonstrate the impact origin of an ancient structure in North America. David was an authority on the Meteor Crater impact structure, east of Flagstaff. Dave's work has assisted in the recognition of large-body impact as an important geologic process on Earth. His study of explosion craters led to longtime involvement with the Department of Defense and was of critical value in strategic military planning. His specialties were the mechanics of hypervelocity impacts, nuclear- and explosion-cratering processes, and high-pressure shock-wave deformation of natural materials, and the geologic and geophysical applications of the science to terrestrial and planetary research. He was also a U.S. Air Force flight navigator and instructor, and a qualified private and commercial pilot for most of his life.
David was born in Springville, Ohio, in 1932 to Jack and Nellie Roddy. He attended the U.S. Air Force School in Harlington, Texas, from 1957 to 1958. Dave got his A.B. and M.S. degrees from Miami University in Ohio in 1955 and 1957, respectively. He was a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force ROTC program at Miami University. From 1957-1960, he was in active service as an Air Force navigator. He attended California Institute of Technology in southern California from 1960 to 1966, receiving a Ph.D. on the dissertation topic of "Impact-cratering mechanics of Flynn Creek, Tennessee" working under Dr. Gene Shoemaker. In 1962, he was induced by Gene to work in an interim capacity at the USGS in the newly-formed Branch of Astrogeology. He joined the Astro Team full time in 1965. Dave was Associate Branch Chief of the Astrogeology Team from 1983-1984. He retired from the USGS in 1992, but remained with the Team as an Emeritus and was extremely active in Science to the very end. David was a member of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, the Geological Society of America, the Mineralogical Society of America, Sigma Xi, American Geophysical Union, and the American Society of Industrial Security.
He was the recipient of the U.S. Department of Interior Unit award for Pacific Enewetak Atoll Crater Explosion Program. He received several letters of appreciation and commendation from Generals at the Department of Defense and from the Secretary of the Air Force for his work with Desert Storm. He was cited by the Secretary of the Interior for a Meritorious Service Award. The prestigious Barringer Award was presented to David Roddy at the International Meteoritic Society Meeting in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on August 3, 1994, in recognition of his outstanding scientific contributions and lifetime work in the field of impact crater mechanics.
Co-workers at the USGS remember a caring, kind, loyal friend with a sharp sense of humor. Dave was a good listener, who could always be trusted to keep confidences. Extremely honest and ethical, he was always willing to help someone in need. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s his constant companion was a small white terrier named Michelle. Clad in sunglasses and leather pilot jacket with Michelle trotting at his side, Dave was a driven scientist with a Colonel Flag persona, who aspired to the highest of standards, but usually had time for lunch with friends.
Most of his life Dave was a vital man with a passion for running and staying fit. Although the last ten years of his life were marked by a battle with Parkinson's disease, he fought it every inch of the way. In 2000, he ran 2.5 miles in the annual Flagstaff 4th of July 10K/fun run. Last year, he walked the entire 10K. It was hot as hell and Dave came in last, receiving the red caboose award and another for being the oldest participant, but he still had enough energy to walk over and view the 2-hour parade, eat lots of my daughter's candy, and then beg us to join him for lunch. Lunches with Dave were always memorable, a meal rarely ended without his ordering one dessert, that we all had to share. David was a practical joker. He probably pulled his last one on me, a week before his death, in Houston at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. We were going out to lunch in a group of 5: Bevan French and Wylie Poag in a small car and David, John McHone, and I were to use the LPI van service. Inside the van, Dave wasn't happy with the lax schedule of the driver. He pointed out an open-door car across the parking lot and asked me to jump out and run over there, to see if we could all squeeze in Wylie Poag's car. I sprinted across the lot, glanced at the empty back seat, and asked if we could join them, only to find that the two men in the front seat were not French or Poag. Bill Casidy, on the passenger side, wanted to know what my companions looked like. Mortified, I apologized and walked back to the van to find Dave and John laughing their heads off. Dave said, "I knew it wasn't them all the time, you should have seen the looks on their faces, but don't worry - you made their day."
Dave was married twice. First to Andrea Biehler of Riverside, California, with whom he had 3 sons. His second marriage was to Jeannie Swan Roddy of Halifax, Nova Scotia. His mother Nellie, 3 sons: David M., Mark R., and Matthew J. Roddy, as well as stepsons, Glen and Kevin Swan and 3 grandchildren survive Dave. He was active in his community and is sorely missed by numerous friends, co-workers, and peers.
U.S. Geological Survey, Astrogeology Team Emeritus David John Roddy passed away at 9:40 in the morning, March 21 at St. Louis hospital while on a short trip. He had gone into the hospital complaining of chest pains and ruptured an aorta while undergoing a heart scan. He died immediately.
A memorial service was held May 18, 2002, in Wettaw auditorium on the Northern Arizona University campus in Flagstaff, Arizona. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Parkinson's Foundation, 1250 Hylan Blvd., Suite 4B, Staten Island, NY 10305, or to an animal care organization of the donor's choice.
by Mary Chapman, 26 March 2002 - Updated June 2015