Dorothea Harrison Rodimon, a colorful icon in the San Diego real estate community who worked well into her 90s at the end of a career that spanned more than 40 years, died peacefully in her home overlooking La Jolla Cove on Saturday, December 3, 2011. She was four weeks from her 102nd birthday.
Rodimon's working life encompassed much of the post-War growth period for La Jolla and its surrounding communities. She sold her first house in 1962 for $30,000 and her last in 2004 for more than $6 million. She plausibly claimed to have sold properties on nearly every one of La Jolla's streets, some as many as three times. Along the way, she earned official recognition from her peers for her outstanding sales record, personal integrity and service to the community.
Brandishing her two canes, her trademark false eyelashes, and in later years, her "ear trumpets", and charming those around her with her soft southern accent, unique turns of phrase and gifts as a raconteur, she was a fixture on the La Jolla real estate scene until the loss of her driver's license forced her into "early retirement" at age 95.
Rodimon was born Grace Dorothea Dutro Harrison on December 29, 1909, at a home called "Cozy Cabin" in Charles City County, Virginia, where her family had been since the 1620s. She proudly traced her ancestry to both Pocahontas and Benjamin Harrison of Berkeley, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. President William Henry Harrison was her fourth great uncle. She spent her childhood in the Tidewater Virginia countryside at "Edgewood" where she remembered walking behind her father as he plowed the field with a mule and riding her pony to a cousin's house for her first informal schooling. At the age of 12 she went to live with another "maiden" cousin in Philadelphia in order to continue her education. She graduated from Agnes Irwin School at the age of 16 and made her debut in both Philadelphia and Richmond. For the next several years she worked in Philadelphia and enjoyed several tours of Europe with her cousins.
In 1933, Dorothea married Robert Van Meter, the first Rhodes Scholar to Oxford from the Naval Academy. She and her eight bridesmaids sailed to England for the wedding. The couple had one son, Robert Harrison Van Meter. After less than five years of marriage, Van Meter was killed in a boating accident while vacationing with Dorothea. Thereafter, Dorothea worked to support herself and her young son first as a tour guide in Richmond and later with the Selective Service in Richmond. During World War II she worked for the Navy in Washington, D.C.
After 10 years as a widow and numerous proposals of marriage, Dorothea married another naval officer, Warner Scott Rodimon (USNA 1929), in 1947, a union that lasted until his death in 2005. They had one son, Scott Harrison Rodimon. The Rodimons enjoyed tours of duty in Norway and Panama where Captain Rodimon served as marine director of the Panama Canal Company from 1956 until he retired as a rear admiral in 1959 and moved to La Jolla. There, while friends began retiring, Dorothea studied in night school for her realtor's license and found a new career that was her true calling.
Rodimon first started as a real estate agent in 1962 with Captain Harry L. Pence on Girard Avenue, continuing with Louise "Dolly" Bray who later took over the business. In 1974, the La Jolla Real Estate Brokers Association (REBA) awarded Dorothea the annual Knox award for her "fine sales record, personal integrity and service to the community." Later she worked for Grubb and Ellis where she was a top producer and was given the "Perfect 10" award by her friends and colleagues inscribed: "With an unfailing supply of charm, wit and grace, you are an inspiration to all those around you." Rodimon finished her career with Prudential California Realty in La Jolla. REBA presented her with a Lifetime Achievement award in 2007.
Rodimon was predeceased by both sons and both husbands. She is survived by her nieces, Elizabeth Court of San Diego, Anne Bennett and Mary Harrison, both of Richmond, Virginia; nephew, Hugh Harrison, also of Richmond; six grand-nieces and nephews; two great-grandnieces; and a great-grandnephew.
A memorial service will be held at St. James By-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla on Saturday, December 11, 2011, at 1:00 pm.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. James By-the-Sea Episcopal Church or San Diego Hospice.