DGKN archive photo
Dee Rodi-Barbera, right, is sworn in by Mayor Judy Cox in 2018 in council chambers to fill a vacated seat on council.
DALTON Even if you weren’t a member of Dee Rodi-Barbera’s family, you likely were treated as one.
Rodi-Barbera was well-known in the community not only by residents and motorists she saw regularly at the busy convenience store where she worked as kitchen manager, but by serving on village council and making a difference as mayor for two terms and most recently as a councilperson.
Rodi-Barbera passed away Feb. 19 at Aultman Hospital in Canton. She was 67.
She is survived by her husband, Kerry, and son, Dominic, and other family members, friends and community members.
According to her obituary, she enjoyed spending time with her son, going to casinos, and she loved her cats.
“She’s such a great woman,” said her husband, Kerry, shortly before her funeral service this past Friday at McIntire, Bradham & Sleek Funeral Home in Wooster. The couple had been married for 32 years. Even though she served the village at length he said she never brought politics home. They both enjoyed bowling for many years. She became quite good at bowling and bowled in leagues until arthritis slowed her down several years ago. Kerry recalled that her father had a body shop in Dalton so she was well-known in Dalton and knew many people for years.
Their son, Dominic, had a special recent memory of his mother as she took him and a friend to Las Vegas just last month to celebrate Dominic’s 30th birthday. She had wanted to make it a surprise and they had a memorable time together.
Her passing shocked and saddened everyone who knew her.
“Dee was just literally the hardest worker that I’ve ever employed,” said Brittany Sisk, store manager at BellStores, who worked with Rodi-Barbera since 2018. “We told her she ran circles around the kitchen. She took pride in the kitchen and making food that’s good and hot and fresh for everyone for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”
Sisk said this past Friday that employees from other BellStores were going to fill in for her and others because they wanted to honor her memory and did not want to miss her funeral service that morning.
“She was like a mom figure to all of us here,” Sisk said. “She was just a really great person. I feel anyone who knew her would say the same thing. This place will never ever be the same without her. It’s been really hard for us over the past two weeks just walking over there and she’s not working there anymore. She was super sarcastic. She would tell you how it was.”
Dominic Barbera concurred that while he affectionately called his mom “Mo,” his friends did the same.
He remarked that 99 percent of people loved her. The tiny 1 percent who didn’t love her probably brought it upon themselves because she was not afraid to speak her mind. That trait may have helped her to be an effective councilperson and people enjoyed her honesty. Sisk said that she was even sarcastic at times but that was part of what they loved about her.
“We always had an open door policy with all my friends: stay as long as you like,” Dominic said. “She treated them like they were her own kids. She treated other people like family.”
Mayor Dennis Finley said that Rodi-Barbera served previously two terms as mayor before she returned to politics a couple of years ago.
“She has done a lot for the community over the years and she was always willing to listen to the concerns of people in the community,” Finley said.
“It was a pleasure to work with Dee Barbera as a mayor,” said Police Chief Ryan Pearson who was hired under Rodi-Barbera. “We had a great working relationship. We worked together on several projects and she always supported the police department.”
Pearson said that while Rodi-Barbera was mayor, the police department moved from a much smaller building to its current location, which is much more adequate to house the officers, equipment and cruisers. He recently worked with her as a councilperson on the public safety committee.
“Her support is going to be missed,” he said.
Rodi-Barbera was selected at the end of 2018 to fill the vacated seat of Larry West who resigned in November 2018 citing personal reasons.
In the Dec. 19, 2018 edition of The Dalton Gazette & Kidron News, Rodi-Barbera said she was inspired to return to politics after working full-time at one of Dalton’s busiest locations – the BellStores at U.S. 30 and state Route 94. She told The DGKN that she regularly was in contact with and heard from many residents about local issues.
“I am familiar with the policies and procedures that we do have here,” she told council members during a special meeting Dec. 10, 2018, as they considered her to fill West’s position, “and I just feel I have something to offer the village.”
The council seat was open again at the end of 2019. Barbera ran in 2019 and was elected to serve on Village Council. She was active as chairperson of the Finance Committee and she also was on the public safety committee.
Councilman Steve Rabatin who was elected last year and has served on council since January shared in an email: “Regrettably, I was only able to serve for a short time with Councilwoman Rodi-Barbera. In that short time I appreciated her welcoming attitude and desire to serve the Village of Dalton. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
Sisk said that many people walking into the convenience store at the Marathon gas station were asking about her.
“It goes to show how many people actually cared about her,” Sisk said. “We’ll talk about her for years.”
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.mcintirebradhamsleek.com