Rod Fadem; stockbroker, author, celebrated for his wit

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Rod Fadem, described as a “stockbroker, author, contrarian and wit who wrote movingly and humorously about having lived with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), died Sunday, June 13, 2010 after what his family described as a valiant struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 77, having died just three days before his 78th birthday. His widow, Susan Sherman Fadem told the Jewish Light that the funeral service, which was attended by hundreds of people at Congregation Shaare Emeth, took place on his birthday. “Rod had asked me who was going to join us for his birthday, and somehow he must have known that the service would fall on that day,” she said.

Mr. Fadem was born Rodowe Wesley Fadem in St. Louis on June 16, 1932, the son of the late Michael and the late Rose Fadem. In his book, “Memoirs of a Born Shlepper: Never Give OCD a Third Thought,” Mr. Fadem wrote humorously about how his unusual first name was so often mispronounced that he decided to shorten it to Rod. He became a successful and highly respected stockbroker and author of numerous books and articles about his chosen profession, and became known as a “Renaissance Man” to his family, friends and business associates.

Rabbi Jeffrey B. Stiffman, Emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth, who along with Cantor Seth Warner officiated at Mr. Fadem’s funeral service, said, “In his book, ‘Memoirs of a Born Shlepper,’ Rod told of the difficulties of living with OCD. He overcame what could be a debilitating condition to become a success in business an in life.”

Taking note of the large number of people who attended the service, Rabbi Stiffman said, “So many friends-from days of Soldan High School to the present moment. Colleagues respected him. Clients appreciated his personal service. All of us loved his wicked sense of humor while admiring his talented intellect.”

Several speakers at the service, including longtime friend and colleague David Eidelman, noted that while Mr. Fadem’s humor could indeed be “wicked,” he never spoke ill of anyone else. “His humor was often self-deprecating, but never did he make fun of others,” Eidelman said. He added that Mr. Fadem was very loyal to, and personally interested in, the well-being of his clients both personally and professionally.

Rabbi Stiffman also took note of Mr. Fadem’s many other interests and skills. “He loved to travel-from his days in the service and throughout his life. He spoke many languages fluently. He was a lettered athlete in tennis, which he loved to play. He was a music-lover-from his childhood days as an usher at the Muny to his last moments. He was a walking encyclopedia of show tunes as well as opera.”

Stiffman added, “Rod read many of the great books on his own, to broaden his knowledge. He not only authored many books with catchy titles, he also had a number of articles published in Barron’s, a high compliment to any broker. He studied everything in great detail, and his memory was amazing. We enjoyed his love of root beer, of chicken, creamed corn and his other favorite foods. We loved him because he was a real character. He made us laugh. He could provoke us…He wasn’t just a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian. He thought deeply and held to his convictions.”

Longtime friend of Rod and Susan Fadem, Arlen Chaleff, said, “Rod Fadem was the most lovable, intelligent, sensitive curmudgeon I have ever known. He lived life with great passion and intensity and was greatly fueled by his love of music, great books, old films and opera . . . But the true passion, the fire in his eyes passion he held had for the beautiful women in his life, his wife Susan and daughters Kimmie and Michelle.

“I went to visit Rod a short time before he went into the hospital for the last time. I said to him as he lay surrounded by their love and affection, he was the luckiest man in the world. He nodded his head and I know he agreed.”

In their remarks, Mr. Fadem’s daughters bolstered Chalefff’s observation, recalling Mr. Fadem’s overjoyed reaction to having come through a medical procedure and awakening surrounded by his loved ones. He did indeed call himself “the luckiest man on earth.”

Irl Solomon, a cousin and longtime friend and client of Mr. Fadem’s recalls, “I had ‘inherited’ Rod as my broker, confidante and friend in 1983. We were already second cousins, but not particularly close. Over the ensuing 27 years, I followed him to at least five different brokerage houses, sort of like the biblical Ruth: ‘Wherever thou goest, I will go!’ Through most of this odyssey, we talked at least once almost every day.

Rod was truly a Renaissance Man – he literally knew a lot about almost everything, and was extremely talented. An example: several times he conversed with Lyena, my Russian-American daughter-in-law, who lives in California – in Russian!”

Copies of Mr. Fadem’s book were stacked on tables outside the Stiffman Sanctuary after the service for each person who attended and a sheet containing “The Wit and Witticism of Rod Fadem” was distributed to each person who attended the service.

Several of the most pungent items related to his unusual first name, which was in tribute to Rodowe (pronounced ROD-away) Abeken, who found a job for Mr. Fadem’s father during the depths of the Depression. “What’s in a name? Sometimes pain, sometimes fame,” he wrote.

Mr. Fadem was known to have successfully overcome the challenges of living with OCD by channeling his behavior into useful knowledge professionally and intellectually, and to have authentic empathy and compassion for all of his family members and friends throughout his life.

In his book, Mr. Fadem recalled his Hebrew school classes at the Orthodox Miriam Hebrew School, going to the Orthodox Beth Tphillah synagogue on Saturdays and the Reform Jewish B’nai El Temple for Sunday school.

Mr. Fadem was a graduate of Soldan High School and Washington University, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration. He was married to the former Susan Sherman for 37 years.

Mr. Fadem also wrote humorously of his military experiences in ROTC at Washington University and his service in the U.S. Army, and a drill instructor he called “Sergeant Haman.” He recalled telling Sgt. Haman he had been “daydreaming” when he dropped his gear on the sergeant. “You don’t daydream in the Army,” said Sgt. Haman. “You’ll be blown away your first day in combat.”

In addition to his wife and daughters, Mr. Fadem is survived by his brother, Aaron (Jacqui) Fadem, brother-in-law Mark (Audrey) Sherman and sister-in-law Wendy (Michael) Flotken, and was the uncle of Diane (Michael) Packman and Bryan Fadem. He is also survived by his mother-in-law Charlotte (the late Nat) Sherman.

Burial was at Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery, 9125 Ladue Road. Donations may be made to the St. Louis OCD Support Group, 3755 Clichy Lane, Bridgeton, Mo. 63044.