TUCSON, Ariz. - Rodney Dean Jilg died in his wife’s arms March 21, 2021.
Rodney was extraordinary. He spent his professional life in service to those with special needs. Born on a small farm in northeastern Nebraska, he never lost touch with his roots, something that grounded his approach to life. A brilliant man always eager to learn something new, he earned two masters degrees and a PhD. He taught English and Latin on the high school and university levels before moving to Arizona with his wife, Pat Hensler, living on Sunset Valley Ranch north of Willcox. Pat died in a car accident when their son, Justin, was 8 months old. Although his sisters offered to raise Justin, Rod would have none of it, parenting his son alone until he met Nina Trasoff. When they married he moved to Tucson where they built a life together, raising Justin and their younger son, Victor, and were lucky to have an extended family of the Jilgs, Trasoffs and Henslers. The family grew, adding Becca 33 years ago - truly his third child, and grandsons Teddy, Cooper and Cade. Then came Cod and grandsons, Jacob and Sterling.
Rod had a strong presence, serving as friend and mentor to many, helping change lives through his caring and positive attitude. He was also the latke king, making the best potato pancakes at his family’s annual Chanukah party. He had a profound impact on his workplaces, including the Department of Corrections, SAMHC, DES, DHS and Easter Seals Blake Foundation.
Rod was one of seven children, a very close-knit loving family, with Mariellen (Charlie) Maly, Dianna (Ned) Gobel and Doug (Diane) Jilg; Pat’s surviving brothers, Tim and Terry; Nina’s siblings, Vicki and David; and dozens of nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Otto and Clara Jilg; and sisters, Karen Warren, Joleen Buckman and Kathy Fiedler.