La Jolla’s real estate queen celebrates 100th birthday


By Linda McIntosh


Dorothea Rodimon lived through World War I and II and can tell a century of history. Actually, Rodimon, who turned 100 last month, could tell several centuries of American history alone from stories passed down through her family.

Rodimon’s roots are in Virginia, and she is a direct descendant of the Native American princess Pocahontas. Rounding out her page in history, Rodimon’s great-great-great-great uncle was William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States who lived from 1771-1841. His father, Benjamin Harrison, signed the Declaration of Independence.

But in La Jolla, Rodimon is known for making her own mark on history by working nearly a half-century in real estate. She kept selling until she was 95 years old.

Rodimon started selling properties in 1959, when she and her husband, Warner Rodimon, moved to La Jolla. Since then, she has become a fixture in the La Jolla real estate market, becoming the Realtor for families and later, their grown children. Dorothea Rodimon sold her share of landmark homes, including the famous “Taj,” which takes its name from Taj Mahal, and which she sold several times.

But Rodimon doesn’t talk about numbers, she talks about friends she made.

“I loved my work and I made many friends over the years, and we remained friends,” said Rodimon, with a trace of her Southern accent.

Rodimon was known for doing whatever it took to do a good job. She crawled under homes to check on problems, and mopped floors before showing a home.

“I have crawled under a good many homes in La Jolla. I don’t think I ever failed to make a person happy with their new home,” Rodimon said.

Rodimon had a knack for getting to know people and understanding their tastes in homes.

“I tried to match the home to the people I was selling to,” she said.

Rodimon’s niece Betsy Court added, “She loved to hear back from clients about the houses she sold them.”

Rodimon recalled going to night school in 1959 to get her real estate certification. She went on to work for several real estate firms, including Grub & Ellis and Prudential.

“Dorothea has been a remarkable tribute to our industry, having earned the loyalty and business of not only her clients, but her clients’ children,” said Nicki Marcellino, manager of the Prudential La Jolla office.

In 1974, Rodimon was recognized by fellow Realtors and won the McNaught-Davis/Knox Award. Over the years, she won many awards and received a lifetime achievement award in 2007 from the La Jolla Real Estate Brokers’ Association.

“I was successful beyond my expectations,” Rodimon said.

Co-workers admired her dedication and hard work. “I remember her working on an offer at 2 a.m.,” said Kathy Greenwood, a Realtor who worked with Rodimon for nearly 20 years.

“She’s very spirited and has a lot of get up and go,” Greenwood said. “She has a zest for life, and she seems to savor every moment.”

When people ask Rodimon her secret for living to 100, she talks about friends and work and her husbands.

“Her interest in people gives her a special spark,” Court said.

Despite tragedy in her life, Rodimon remained engaged and never withdrew, which might have been natural for someone who lost her first love tragically, and later lost both her sons to accidents.

“She has a resilient personality,” Court said.

Rodimon’s first husband, Robert Van Meter, was killed in a boating accident in the early 1930s. He was the first naval Rhodes Scholar to study at Oxford. After 12 years as a widow and 17 marriage proposals, she married another naval officer, Warner Rodimon, in 1946. Warner Rodimon served as captain of the destroyer USS Hopewell during World War II, and was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star before becoming rear admiral.

For several years before moving to La Jolla, the Rodimons lived in Panama while Warner served as Marine director of the Panama Canal.

The couple were married for 59 years until Warner’s death at age 97 in 2005.

Dorothea Rodimon lives in the original home she and Warner moved into in 1959.

For her 100th birthday, Dorothea Rodimon threw a party at her home on Dec. 29 with several dozen friends and family. She is still concerned that her invitation list might not have included everyone, and if that’s the case, any old friends should let her know so they can come to her next birthday.