Rod Smelser

In Memorial

Rod Smelser passed away on December 17, 2013 in Maple Ridge after several months of cancer treatments. He leaves behind his wife, Verity Howarth, his extended family and many friends.

Rod was born in 1950 at the Royal Jubilee Hospital to Louella and Cedric Smelser. He was raised in Victoria along with his younger brother, Bryan. Rod completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics at the University of Victoria in 1972. In 1985 he completed his Masters degree in economics at UBC.

Rod dedicated 39 years to public service, working as an economist for Unemployment Insurance/HRDC/Service Canada. During this time he worked in Ottawa, Kamloops, Prince George, and Vancouver. He was frequently heard on the radio reporting on labour market statistics in British Columbia. In the last few years of his career he served as a shop steward, advocating for his colleagues’ rights.

For nearly 30 years Rod has lived Maple Ridge. He enjoyed downhill skiing, scuba diving in local waters, bike riding and trail running. Rod was a caring pet owner of 2 cats, “Haggis” and “Fergie” and in his retirement he volunteered with the BCSPCA.

Rod was recently made an “honorary lifetime member” of the New Democratic Party. He joined the NDP in 1968 at UVic and was an active party member ever since. He has worked tirelessly on dozens of progressive campaigns at the school board and municipal level as well as provincial and federal NDP campaigns. For the past 8 years Rod has been the federal financial agent for the riding of Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission.

Rod is well known for his intelligent and persistent social media presence on Twitter (@rodsmelser) and his lifelong activism around issues such as:

Transportation and transit
Employment and Employment Insurance
Temporary Foreign Workers Program

Whenever Rod saw something in society or his community that needed improving he always took action and can be an example to all of us in this regard. He will be missed by many.

There will be a celebration of life for Rod in 2014. Details will be posted on his memorial facebook site.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Rod and Verity are dance friends we saw occasionally at lessons or dances. Rod seemed very quiet and I had no idea of his education and social conscious (I took business admin & accounting courses including economics & lived in Kamloops & Prince George (69-85), and lately joined the NDP! – and he’s 3 years older). It’s sad that we meet people in life sometimes but don’t get to find out much about them until it’s too late. 60’s & retirement are supposed to be the best years of your life, and he left us way too soon – Ray & Bertha

  2. Jennifer Woodroff

    I knew Rod mostly through social media and for his strong, but measured opinions. I had the good fortune of meeting him in person about this time last year. I consider myself fortunate, because he was really something; a genuinely engaged person.

    He made the world a better place and we’ll all miss him.

  3. I am so glad my cousin had such a wonderful wife and friend. His parents were so proud of him. So sorry to think of him gone from this world. In my mind I picture him and Haggis together and Haggis is purring. DeeDee

  4. I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. My heart goes out to you and your family.
    Sandy Collins, RSLP

  5. Rod was a kind and loving person who cared deeply for his wife, and for his family, friends and pets. His passion for his community and the well-being of its people was never just lip-service; Rod backed up his thoughtful concerns with action, setting an example for everyone he knew. He cared about making day-to-day life better for working people and those less fortunate — about the health care they received, about the public transport they relied upon, and about the living wage he fought for them to earn. Personally, he was a friend, and I will miss him.

  6. Deirdre Liebrandt Johnson

    I worked with Rod briefly at Industry Canada and used to see him on West Coast Express from time to time. My sincere condolences to the Smelser family. I wish you peace and fond memories during this difficult time.

  7. Hi Verity, my sincere condolences for your loss. I hope you find comfort in happy memories of Rod.

  8. Rod and I met in a grade 1 & 2 split class. He lived close so it was a natural to become friends. I practically lived at the Smelsers house during the summer months. I remember the many birthday parties I shared with Rod. To earn tuition and such for University we worked together in the Alberni Pacific Division (sawmill) one summer. We spent weekends in Victoria and camped at Stamp falls to save money. I remember swimming in the river and cooking supper over the campfire. The summer was like a long holiday.

    I remember that Rod had to move to Ottawa for his first job with the Federal government. I attended his going away party. As life goes I did not see much of Rod for 30+ years, but did talk on the telephone
    especially in the last 5 years or so. I last met with Rod a few years ago at a dinner party given by a mutual friend in Victoria.

    What I remember about Rod is his honestry, his integrity and his enthusiasm (for neighborhood projects). Rod was someone you could depend on and was a good friend of mine.

  9. My deepest condolences to all Rods loved ones. I am Rod & Verity’s Dance instructor and I always enjoyed having them in my classes.
    Wow, I have to say I did not know all of this about Rod, what an incredible guy! He will leave a huge hole in our community.

  10. My condolences to Verity and other members of Rod’s family. I worked with Rod at Industry Canada. He was held in high regard by many of his federal colleagues.

  11. Rod took my graduate public finance class my first year teaching at UBC in 2001-02. He brought a wealth of institutional wisdom and experience to the class discussions, along with a deep intellectual curiosity.

    In recent years, I enjoyed reading Rod’s comments on twitter. He was respectful and open to persuasion by reason or fact. What more can you ask than that in policy debates?

    I offer my condolences.
    Kevin Milligan, UBC Vancouver School of Economics

  12. I had the opportunity to get to know Rod during his short stint at Industry Canada. He was a very kind man and a true economist! My sincere condolences to his wife and family.

  13. Rod was very kind, helpful, and encouraging to me when I first joined the public service. He was insightful and provided useful economic analysis to assist me in my work. He was always willing to offer his humble help, and welcomed a good debate. I continue to be very grateful.
    Condolences to his family and friends.

  14. Dear Verity,
    my sincere condolences to you and your family. Although, I didn’t have the opportunity to work with Rod, we always had nice chat during lobby and elevator ride. He was such a nice and friendly man.
    God bless and please take care.

  15. I worked at Regional office, not with Rod, but interacted occasionally with him. Rod was always a kind, considerate, and knowledgeable person, always willing to provide assistance or support. He just seemed to be a really “nice guy”! My sincere condolences to his wife, and the family.

  16. Geoff and Lynn Wight

    I grew up next door to the Smelser family. My sister, Barb and I played together with Rod and his younger brother, Bryan, through a wonderful childhood. I didn’t have much contact after grade school but will always have fond memories of those times. The passing of Rod’s parents, his brother and now Rod himself is such a loss.

    Lynn and I, along with my Mom and sister, who still live next door to the Smelser family home, are deeply saddened.

    Rod was a great guy with many attributes. He and his family will be missed by us.
    Our condolences go out to all those whose lives have crossed Rod’s and especially to you, Verity. Our hearts are with you.

    Geoff, Lynn and the Wight family.

  17. I was saddened to hear of Rod’s passing. My first introduction to Rod was in 1950 – he was 1 week old. I remember so clearly his parents bringing him home from hospital and coming directly to our house to show him off. He was the youngest baby I’d ever seen, swaddled in a white blanket, seemingly so small tho’ he was a robust baby. Cedric and Ella were such proud parents!
    In later years I would receive Christmas cards from Rod and Verity and of course their cat, Haggis. Being an animal lover this even further endeared this lovely couple to me. Verity, I’m thinking of you and holding you close at this time. Judy (Bone) Plewis

  18. Francesca de Bastiani

    I was so sorry to hear about Rod’s passing and am sending my deepest sympathy to his family especially Verity who he talked about everytime I spoke to Rod. Somehow your name always cropped up and you can tell how much he loved you (and still does). I enjoyed working with Rod very much. He was always very giving with information when I asked for it and I know that he liked cheese! He was a very kind and a deep thinker. Sending soothing thoughts to you now and will pray that you find some comfort during this difficult time knowing that his co-workers appreciated him. Respectfully, Francesca de Bastiani

  19. Betty McKendrick

    My sympathies Verity for the loss of your husband. I first met Rod in the 70’s at our little NDP group (about 3 people). We were so happy to see someone who could be treasurer and I believe he served in that capacity many times. He will be sadly missed by our entire community. Betty

  20. I would like to express sympathy to Rod’s wife and family for the loss of a special individual who tried to make the world a better place. As a former employee of Service Canada, I have known Rod for many years and respected his economic expertise and advice over the years. When I walked by his desk, I remember seeing a lovely photo of his wife right on top of his bookshelf as if to inspire him. He cut through bureaucracy and always made time to provide economic guidance. When the Vancouver Sun quoted his economic forecasts, his professionalism made Service Canada look good.

    With deepest sympathy,
    Irena Skalbania

  21. Our family were truly saddened to hear of Rod’s passing and we would like to send you our warmest wishes and love. Our thoughts are with you. Sincerely; Charlene, Mark, Rachael and Joey Fiehn.

  22. Paul & Gen Henry

    Our sincere sympathy you are in our thoughts.
    Paul and Gen

  23. Elizabeth Rosenau

    I’m still getting used to the idea of a world without Rod in it, and there’s no doubt that it’s a diminished world. I will remember him as we go forward and take courage from the inspiration he left behind.

    Rod was such an important part of the local NDP scene because he was one of those rare people who worked hard year in and year out regardless of our fortunes. He was no fair weather friend of the causes he believed in, something I much admired him for.

    My thoughts are with you, Verity.

    Elizabeth Rosenau,

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