Dick C. Rhoads, who left the family’s rural Idaho ranch to pursue a brief opportunity to work abroad that turned into a 32-year career as a U.S. educator in Europe, died Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, of natural causes at home. He was 86.

He would spend the bulk of his international career in Germany, educating students of U.S. military personnel living in a divided Europe against the backdrop of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union. By the time he retired, he was superintendent of U.S. schools in a region spanning Germany and Scandinavia.

He was born Richard Carol Rhoads in Caldwell in November 1934, to Carol and Esther Rhoads, who ranched and farmed in White Bird and Greenleaf. The eldest of three children, Dick, as he was known to friends and family, excelled in academics and played football in high school.

He spent his formative years on horseback, doing farm chores and learning about the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest close up — the time his horse took a drink in the middle of a river and gave him an unexpected dunking became family legend.

After graduating high school in 1953 from Greenleaf Academy, Idaho, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from the University of Idaho, spending summers chopping wood for the U.S. Forest Service. While studying in Moscow, he met and married his wife, LaRae Sasser, of Pingree, Idaho.

He taught at Oregon high schools in Scio and Stayton from 1957-61, and earned a master’s degree in education at Oregon State University in 1960 before further studying guidance counseling at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

While in North Dakota, a visit to an education trade fair in Chicago led to a chance to fulfill a dream of working abroad — he accepted a job that would start his lengthy career with the U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) in Europe.

What was meant to be a brief tour in Europe — a school in California kept a job open for him saying he could have it when he came back in two years — would turn into a career spanning more than three decades.

His wife and two children in tow, he took up his first post in 1962 as a counselor at London Central High School in London, England, a school for U.S. military dependents. At nights, he stayed busy studying administration, which would help lead to later promotion. They moved to Germany in 1965, where he was dean of students at Wiesbaden High School, and they had their third child that year.

In 1967, he moved to Adana in southern Turkey where he served as assistant principal at the American junior high school in Incirlik. They toured Mediterranean historical sites from Ephesus to St. Paul’s Well in Tarsus, until tensions in the region led to a return to Germany in 1969.

He was principal of Karlsruhe American High School (Go Knights!) in the Black Forest of southwest Germany, before embarking on a role as assistant superintendent for Baden Württemberg schools, all the while working on a doctorate degree from the University of Southern California. He earned his Ph.D. in education from USC in 1972, and thereafter was known as “Herr Doctor” Rhoads to his German hosts and colleagues.

He became principal of Würzburg American High School in Bavaria’s Franconia region in 1977, and oversaw the home of the Würzburg Wolves for more than eight years. He was promoted into more senior administrative roles as superintendent, living in Osterholz in the north and later Bitburg in western Germany. A classical music aficionado, he made certain to buy season tickets to the orchestra wherever he was stationed.

He retired in 1994 after serving as superintendent of DoDDS schools in a territory stretching from Germany to Scandinavia. His schools included West Berlin, the Allied-occupied part of the erstwhile German capital, where he was a witness to history when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, and he would retire two years later.

He left the capitals of Europe and moved back to small-town Moscow. Not content to give up work completely, he earned a real estate license and worked at Bennett and Associates to keep busy for 10 years until ultimately turning to a life of leisure. From the beginning of his career with DoDDS, he was a member of the ACLU. He also was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society and the Lions Club in Moscow.

He spent his remaining years enjoying visits with family and friends in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Shanghai; Beijing; Portland; New York; Hawaii; Palm Springs; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; and Island Park, Idaho.

In a trait picked up in his years of working in close association with the U.S. military, his car was always gassed up and tuned up, and for every trip he was always packed and on the road far earlier than most civilians.

He had an innate belief in the good in all people, and he always sought to foster mutual respect and trust among his teachers, students and parents. He was a good listener and counselor to each and all who sought his advice. He worked closely with military base commanders wherever he was stationed and they were supportive of his leadership. In return, he made sure his schools were places where children from military families — affectionately known as “brats” — would learn to show respect for people of communities in which they lived, and to be exemplary American guests.

In retirement, he specialised in making sure the grandchildren got to taste ice cream before their parents let them try it, sometimes let them win at dominos and Farkle, and made sure they made it safely and on time to see the fireworks on any given July 4.

He is survived by his wife, LaRae; sisters Vivian and Linda; children Christine and Mara, Garth and Keiko, and Brian and Janet; grandchildren Melissa and Kyle, Ricky, Gavin and Alexa; and a great-grandchild, Jack.

A memorial service will be scheduled when everyone has their vaccinations, the pandemic is over and we can celebrate Dick’s life together responsibly, safely and happily.

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