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The Boss of Cross


John K. Roden was born in Berkley, California, on October 23, 1961, a second child to Paula (Begnaud) and Aubrey Roden. They met while attending Tulane University. Paula, a native of New Orleans, stayed close to home, however Aubrey was from Texas, taking advantage of the GI Bill to earn his degree. From Berkley, their family moved to Calgary, Canada, a cold climate unfamiliar to their family. When John was in kindergarten, his father accepted a faculty position at The University at Buffalo and they settled in western New York. John graduated from East Aurora High School (‘79) and Colgate University (’83), earning a Liberal Arts degree in English.


His love for outdoor adventures began while spending time exploring the woods near his house and fishing in a nearby reservoir, and later expanded to winter sports with repeated ski runs down “Mt. Emery”. He joined the Colgate ski team to continue his passion for alpine skiing. During his time as an undergraduate, he ventured into endurance sports. He began running and bought his first road bike. Soon, he was entering weekly triathlons in Lake Placid, NY. He settled there during the summer of 1982 after his experience working as a security guard for the Winter Olympics.


Following graduation, he was a ski coach at a boarding school in Maine (too isolated) and spent some time in California (too expensive) before returning to western New York to earn a M.S.Ed in English from the University at Buffalo (‘86). This is where he met his future wife, Catherine (Katie) Cardina. While teaching English at Ripley Central Schools, he continued to race his bike, enter running races of all distances, including a few marathons and added Nordic skiing into the mix. Every bout of exercise was duly recorded in his notebook as he set weekly goals. Although he never missed a day of exercise, he drew a line at becoming a streak runner. However, if you asked him when was the last day he missed a workout, the answer would come quickly.


With his inquisitive nature and drive to learn, he set off to The Ohio State University to earn a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration (’91). Katie joined him and they married. Due to the warm weather in Ohio, the skis were set aside and bike racing and running occurred at full speed. The novel sport of mountain biking added to the collection of sports equipment. Group rides and runs were had, and competitive adventures were enjoyed most weekends, from West Virginia to Michigan.


John’s first job as an educational researcher was with Quest International in Grandville, OH. He studied the effects of a skills-based educational program designed to help students adopt and maintain healthy behaviors and reduce unhealthy, risk behaviors. All the while, a pull to return to western New York was strong. His parents were aging, and his sister was disabled. He wanted to care for his family. So, he dusted off his skis and accepted a faculty position at SUNY Fredonia. Chautauqua County was his playground for running, biking, and skiing, and friendships that would endure.


After a few years, and with Katie’s professional goals in mind, they took up residence in Wyoming county, which opened new career opportunities. John became a district administrator for Alexander Central Schools. This role brought him much joy and fulfillment, as he was able to have a positive influence on the educational lives of children.


Because Wyoming county was equidistant to Buffalo and Rochester, John formed many lasting friendships in both communities, through running, biking, and skiing. And just when you thought the garage could not fit another piece of sporting equipment, he discovered cyclo-cross and competed in his first race in Warsaw, NY.


Wyoming county was also where he became a parent, a role that would become his primary focus in life. So much so, that he changed careers, embraced self-employment, and started a consulting business in educational research and evaluation, called Evaluation Partners, Inc. This allowed him to be the primary caregiver for Evan and to help support his mother as she cared for his ailing father. After his father passed, John’s daughter was born and named her Aubrey, despite the Texan’s previous grumbling that his name was being inappropriately used as a girl’s name. John could see that his mother, who had taken care of everyone else, needed care herself, so the family of four joined his mother in West Falls, NY.


After so many years of participating in races, John wanted to give back to the community he loved and became a cyclo-cross race promoter and mentor to new riders. The garage was no longer large enough, so he purchased a storage trailer and hauled it to races and weekly practices at Emery Park and elsewhere. It was important to him that everyone felt welcomed, young and old. He was especially proud of expanding women’s categories, which were mostly non-existent when he began racing bikes.


The next 20 years went by in a flash. He provided for his family, cared for his mother and father-in-law as they declined, left the workforce to care for his sister after she suffered a stroke and needed care 24/7, showered Katie with love and adoration, and devoted himself to parenting Aubrey and Evan, which was his greatest reward in life. If you ever spoke with John, you could sense his love for, and devotion to, his family. You can learn more about John through his writing at


Roden, John K. of West Falls, NY entered into rest April 22, 2024; Beloved husband of Catherine Cardina; devoted father of Evan J. and Aubrey R. Roden; loving son of the late Aubrey and Paula (nee Begnaud) Roden; dear brother of the late Elizabeth Roden; also survived by many loving nieces and nephews. Arrangements by Wood Funeral Home, 784 Main St. East Aurora, NY. Relatives and friends are invited to attend a memorial mass at First Presbyterian Church of East Aurora, 9 Paine St. East Aurora, NY on Saturday May 4th at 10 AM. Please assemble at church. View the livestream at In lieu of flowers please make a donation in John’s memory to


Eulogy from our dear friend, Mark J. Carroll, P.T., Ed.D


John Roden was a husband. He was a Dad. He was a brother. He was a son. He was a scholar. He cared for family members in their final days while simultaneously raising or otherwise influencing those who were just finding their place in life. He could revive dead cars and tweak broken bicycles. He was a writer. He was a race director. He was a thinker. He was an outstanding runner and an elite cyclist and when his athletic prime was behind him, he continued anyway. He told me once “Why would anyone ever retire from a hobby?”


I would suggest that John never retired from anything. He never let a thing or a person he loved fade away. In the very few hours since John left us, I have seen an outpouring of love and memories from people he influenced through all of his many roles, and it seems that we are grieving the loss of a small village more than a single person.


I met John and Kate at Ohio State University during our formative years, when none of us were yet who we were to become. But in formative years patterns do, in fact, form and I can tell you that John and Kate influenced me in ways that, to this very day 37 years later, impact the way I think, the way I speak, the way I approach relationships, and the way I write. In those days John was a very good runner and ran with our rag-tag group of post-college trackies, but none of us knew of his cycling abilities; he simply never mentioned them. He never let a win go to his head and never let a loss trouble him much. I believe he viewed races as a chance to develop. Similarly, he could grind out a term paper in one draft and hand it in with confidence that, good or bad, academic justice would be done. He was wise enough, even at such a young age, to realize that the feedback he would receive was more valuable than the content of the paper itself.


John learned from success, and he learned from failure. He learned from people, and he learned from Auto Trader manuals that were greasy and yellowed with age. And the learning never stopped. He and Kate taught each other how to have a relationship. Neither of them had ever loved anyone else romantically before and so they needed to make it up as they went along, and as we all know they mastered it beautifully. John never gave any indication that he wished to be a father, though many years later he told me that fatherhood was the role that most defined him. Evan and Aubrey were the light of his life, and he told me that they taught him how to be a parent. John and Kate are the rarest of parents; they had an ability to smoothly transition from parents of children to parents of adults. What a beautiful thing to watch. What a beautiful family they formed.


We all knew that John could handle a wrench. He was able to keep a continuous stream of terrible cars on the road. Once while returning from a cross country race my car’s radiator burst. John was following in his car and pulled up behind me. Fortunately for me he was in possession of perhaps 20 bottles of Bars Leak, a gooey fluid that, when poured into a radiator, patched the leak for a day or two if you were lucky. He was throwing a bottle into his car every few days while he awaited the call from our local junkyard that a suitable transplant had been found. He did stuff like that. A lot. But we did not know that he would teach himself how to stand toe-to-toe with professional bicycle mechanics and share his skills, free of charge, with any cyclist in need.


I don’t recall that John ever desired a leadership position but, nonetheless, he spawned a large cycling community and race series in Western New York. Most importantly, he introduced a hundred or more young people to a sport that is, due to its expensive and mechanical nature, difficult to gain a foothold in.


One of the many benefits of having a lifelong friend lies in having the perspective to connect the dots within a person‘s life and see consistencies or inconsistencies. I have the advantage of that view, and I can tell you that the person John was varied considerably throughout his life, but the reason for any variance was always the same. The arrow always pointed towards growth, and towards service, and toward making the world a better place. I can attest the characteristics that caused John to grow started early in his life and were never abandoned. He was one of the rare ones who continue to grow and improve throughout their entire life. He avoided a dangerous characteristic that comes with success and age; the assumption that the wizened exist only to teach, and that those younger or less experienced were in some way less worthy than those of any generation that came before them. John felt that Evan and Aubrey’s generation is the best that the world has yet produced, and he valued his role in helping them to move forward in life as much as he valued all that they taught him.


So, what message can we take from a person who filled so many roles, and impacted so many lives? I would suggest we look for a common thread. On every day that John was a husband, or a brother, or a Dad, or a son, or a scholar, or a caregiver, or a mechanic, or a race director, or any other thing he was also a master of transition. He was proof that a human being can smoothly move from one phase of life to another, from one occupation to another, from one sport to another, or from one type of relationship to another as long as each of these changes are based in growth. And if the thing he was best at was transition perhaps the message he most leaves us is his beautiful example of how to move from one part of life to another.


I humbly suggest to the very many of you who loved John as much as I did, and do, that transition based in love, and growth, were the basis of his demonstrated message. I feel, beyond any doubt, that John would want us to take that piece of him with us. I feel certain that John would smile if we followed his example and transitioned as peacefully as possible into this next difficult phase of life where we will temporarily be without his immediate presence. He would want this transition to be based upon growth he would never want us to stall or slide backward. Let’s honor him by moving forward together in just that way.