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Connecticut Seniors to Participate in Day of Service Honoring MLK

January 17, 2011

AVON, Conn. - A Connecticut man born just a few years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrating what would be the slain civil-rights leader's 82nd birthday today - and has his own stories of prejudice to tell.

Bob Rodman of Avon remembers when his was the only Jewish family in the town where he grew up - and how they bonded with the town's only African-American family, who lived next door.

When he joined the still-segregated Navy in Maryland in the mid-1950s, he recalls that his superior officer warned the recruits not to participate in any Ku Klux Klan activities. Rodman wasn't actively involved in the civil-rights movement, but he remembers hearing King's message.

"I knew that he was trying to bring a better life to the black population - and to everyone, as a matter of fact."

King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis at age 39.

Today, Rodman plans to participate in a day of service with a crew of seniors helping FoodShare pack donations headed for food pantries in Hartford and Tolland counties.

"It is Martin Luther King Day, and as he has said, 'Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?' "

Rodman gives back year-round as a driver safety instructor for AARP. Rodman says people volunteer for a lot of reasons.

"Many participate in charitable activities because it is self-satisfying, or they may feel an obligation."

For him, he says it's definitely the satisfaction.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT