Another of our Greatest Generation has left us. Our beloved father, grandfather, brother, and uncle, Rothwell Paul Broyles, passed away on the beautiful fall morning of October 9, 2020, at the age of 94. Dad was our rock, always, and a more kind, loving, loyal, honest, humble, and hard-working man would be hard to find. The word integrity describes his character to a “T,” as it did that of so many World War II veterans.

“Rod,” as he was known to friends and family, was born in 1926 and brought up by his loving family in Luray, Virginia and Buffalo, Wyoming. He became an Eagle Scout at the unusually young age of 14, and enlisted in the Navy Hospital Corps in 1944. While still in high school, he met the love of his life, Phyllis Freeland, thanks to her brother Dixon introducing his fellow scoutmate Rod to the family. Phyllis and Dixon’s father, Edward Dixon Freeland, had recently become superintendent at Shenandoah National Park. Rod and Phyllis spent many happy days riding horseback in the hills around Luray, a pastime that would remain their favorite for many years and in many parks.

After his service in the Navy, he attended Colorado State University (Colorado A & M) while working as a seasonal ranger at Shenandoah National Park. That was the beginning of a 36-year career as a ranger in our National Parks with his wife Phyllis at his side, including Yosemite National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, Big Bend National Park in Texas, where he also served in the Air Force Reserve; Joshua Tree National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, Perry’s Victory & National Peace Memorial, and Pinnacles National Monument (now a National Park). Their son Paul was born in Yosemite, daughter Bea in Grand Teton National Park where Phyllis’s parents were stationed, and daughter Elizabeth was born in St. Helena in the Napa Valley, where the Freelands retired in 1961. Rod and Phyllis retired to Calistoga, and then moved north to McKinleyville almost 20 years ago.

Dad was completely devoted to his family and his animals, and loved all creatures, wild or domestic, as well as our wildlands. Always a bit of a loner, in retirement he walked miles each day with his dog, for as long as he was able. He was a history buff, and his long and rich life experience that straddled two centuries provided fodder for many great stories.

His early days in the Park Service seem idyllic now, in that it was customary for rangers to patrol those beautiful lands on horseback. Those trips were often days long, and mules were used to pack supplies, due to their intelligence and surefootedness on the sometimes treacherous trails. Some of his favorite stories featured a clever mule who helped the horses and other mules escape from their corral in the night, or described encounters with bears in the backcountry of Yosemite. Our family likes to say that we have “green blood,” due to the legacy of serving in the National Parks, started by our grandfather, and continued by several members of the following generations.

His parents and future parents-in-law were good people and made young Rod aware of the racial, gender, and economic inequities of our world. As a result, in his career and as a father he always did his best to champion the disenfranchised and the underprivileged. By example, he taught us to be responsible, think for ourselves, and care for others.

Rod is dearly missed by his son Paul, wife Gini and their two daughters and granddaughter of Boise, Idaho; daughter Bea Bachenberg of Greeley, Colorado and her two children and grandson; daughter Elizabeth Rivera of McKinleyville, her three daughters and their father, Rafael; Rod’s “brother,” Dixon Freeland and his wife Ann of Luray, Virginia, and their three children Alice, Serra, and Dixon David and their families. He was preceded in death by his wife, Phyllis and his son-in-law Tom Bachenberg. In lieu of flowers, donations could be made to any park or conservation organization.

Happy trails, Dad!


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Rod Broyles’ loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.