Rodney Ellis Bell was born in Bismarck, ND, on January 15, 1933, the son of George Dewey and Martha Pearl (Ellis) Bell and died March 31, 2019, at the Lodi Memorial Hospital in Lodi, CA.
He graduated from Bismarck High School in 1951 where he lettered in track and football, attended Bismarck Junior College for one year playing on the Mystics basketball team, then went on to graduate magna cum laude from Jamestown College in 1955.
The following year he received a Master of Arts (History) from the University of Michigan before enlisting in the US Army Security Agency and completed his Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
He married his high school sweetheart, Fayne Dorean Patera, on December 29, 1956. While stationed at Fort Devens, MA, he was selected to attend the Army Language School in Monterey, CA, and after graduation was assigned to the National Security Agency outside of Washington, DC, as a Chinese translator.
Rod began his doctoral studies at the University of Pittsburgh on an Andrew Mellon Fellowship in the Fall of 1959, and then returned to the University of Michigan on a Danforth Fellowship where he eventually completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in history.
His dissertation was entitled, A Life of Russell Alexander Alger, 1836-1907, a rags to riches saga, under the tutelage of Dr. Sidney Fine. He began his teaching career at his alma mater in Jamestown, ND, and in 1970 accepted a position in the Geography-History Department at South Dakota State University, Brookings. When the department split, he was named Head of the History Department, a title he held until his retirement in 2000. Rod and his wife moved to Lodi, CA, in 2004 to be closer to their grandchildren.
Rod’s interest in history began after a summer on an Archeological Dig with the Smithsonian Institute on the banks of the Missouri River in North Dakota prior to the construction of the Garrison Dam.
This interest was nurtured by his professor, Dr. Arlow Andersen, at Jamestown College. He had a passion for learning and enjoyed sharing that knowledge with his students. During his many years as a History Professor, his love of teaching never wavered. His hobby was collecting and running Lionel model trains, but his ultimate joy was being with his dogs and believed that they, too, were God’s creatures.
Rod is survived by his wife, Fayne, three daughters, Carolyn (Roy) Arnold of Eastborough, KS, Elizabeth (Michael) Moreno of Stockton, CA and Kathleen (Kevin) Isbell of Walnut Creek, CA; one son, Thomas (Jennifer) Bell of Gig Harbor, WA; his dearly loved grandchildren, RJ (Raven) and Ryan Arnold, Katie and Kristine Moreno, Gavin and Sienna Isbell, and Andrew, Jason, Evan, Joshua and Rowan Bell; and extended family, one niece, Marnie Lunn of Fargo, ND, and three nephews, Eric Lunn of Grand Forks, ND, David (Tracy) Lunn of Mesa, AZ, and Jeffery (Barbara) Lunn of Kingman, AZ.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his older brother, S/Sgt. George Dewey, Jr., who died in WWII, his infant son, Gregory Drew, his sister-in-law Beverly Lunn and brother-in-law Kenneth Lunn formerly of Bismarck, ND.
A graveside service will be held in his honor at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Bismarck, ND, on Thursday, April 18, at 1 p.m.