by Amanda Fanger, Reporter and Farmer
There have been a lot of changes in the computer industry since 1963, when Jim Rood started his career as an engineer.
“There’s been a lot of changes, but it’s been fun to watch (the industry grow),” he said.
Now retired, Rood has returned to his Day County roots.
Born in the Peabody Hospital in Webster, Jim Rood’s mother took him home to Butler, but it was only for a few months. The family moved to Aberdeen following work.
Although he grew up in Aberdeen, Rood’s family history traces back to the turn of the century in Day County, and he says his fondest childhood memories were made in Day County.
Rood graduated from Central High School in 1958 and attended his first two years of college at Northern State University where he met his future wife Sandra. They were married in 1962, before Rood’s senior year at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City began. He graduated from there with a degree in engineering in 1963.
Jobs for an engineering degree, Rood said, tend to be more readily available in bigger cities. So, he chose Minneapolis, where he’d received a job offer to work with a computer development company.
“Computers were in their infancy at that time,” he said.
At his new job, Rood’s forte was in computer development.
“I ended up in a division that does military projects,” he said. “My first computer I worked on went on nuclear submarines.”
At that time, Rood said submarines had nuclear missiles, but they did not have computers. In Rood’s time, he went from watching crews bring their data with them from onshore to being able to generate it onboard.
“It was challenging and exciting – you knew this was going to be a thing of the future,” he said.
Rood stayed with the company for 40 years, although the company’s name changed many times while he was an employee there.
As an avid sportsman, Rood says that when he first moved to the city, around pheasant season, he was back in the area every weekend.
“I, being fond of fishing and hunting, think Day County has some of the best to offer,” he said.
Also, with his folks owning a cabin on a lake near Aberdeen, every summer he and his family would go spend time there for at least one week out of the year.
Growing up, Rood would spend much of his summers in Day County at his grandparents’ farm, or on aunts’ and uncles’ farms.
“My best memories were the weeks I used to spend here,” he said. “Sometimes it was hard work and sometimes it was just play,” he said, then added with a laugh, “It depended on how far along they were in haying season when I came to stay.”
Through much of the 1990s, Rood was back to Day County a lot for funerals of relatives in his father’s generation.
“We were back to the area a lot,” he said.
At one funeral, he was talking to one of his aunts, a new widow, who was living alone on his grandparents’ farm. That farm had been purchased by the Rood family in 1905.
“I told her to call me if she was ever going to sell the place,” he said.
A few years later, in 1998, Rood received the call from his aunt and on Memorial Day that year, he and Sandra drove out to the farm to look it over.
“It was a wet, rainy day, but I walked all over the farm just to remember,” he said.
Rood says when he and Sandra agreed to purchase the farm, they intended to spend their summers there and use the place as a vacation home.
Rood retired in early spring of 2003, and came out to the farm. Right away, he said he got involved with fixing the place up and managing the farm itself. They cash rented to some neighbors and he worked on turning an old granary into his workshop. His engineering mind hadn’t retired and he still enjoyed building things.
Meanwhile, Sandra was still working in the city and when it came time for Rood to return there, he says he found that he didn’t want to leave.
So, until Sandra retired and moved out to the farm with him, Rood says he did a lot of traveling back and forth between Webster and Minneapolis.
Because of his summers spent here as a boy and because of relatives who live in the area, Rood says he felt at home here.
“It was a place I knew I would enjoy,” he said.
But more than that, the farm had a level of sentimental value for Rood.
“I bought the farm because otherwise it was going to pass out of the family,” he said. “A Rood has been living there for over 100 years.”
In fact, in 2005 the Rood farmstead was granted century farm status and they were recognized at the state fair.
Rood says it is of some concern what will happen to the farm when he is gone. He hopes a Rood descendant would become interested.
Now both fully retired, the Roods volunteer in the Webster community. Rood serves on the board of directors for the Museum of Wildlife, Science & Industry, Bethesda Home board and for the foundation. They are members of St. John’s Church and also both volunteer at Needs Anonymous.
“It seems like we’re always pretty busy,” he said.
Besides his woodworking, Rood also enjoys gardening, which is an activity he spends a lot of time on at the farm.
Rood says he and his wife most miss the shopping opportunities from the big city, but they say they get along and, because they still own a condo in Bloomington, they can go back often to visit their children and grandchildren who live in that area. Their family includes two daughters and a son, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Rood says what he and his wife really enjoy about living in the smaller community is how everyone knows everyone.
“You can go into a store here and they know you,” he said.