Las Vegas "First Lady" of Construction
Dies after a lengthy illness with Parkinson's
Clarine "Kitty" Rodman was born in Richmond, Virginia July 5, 1925, to A.J. and Laura Kidd. Her parents passed away when she was a young child and so she was raised by an Aunt and Uncle through her high school years.
Her early job training took place after school working at the candy counter at Woolworth's where she soon became a floor supervisor. One of Kitty's teachers saw that there was no money for Kitty to go to college, so she helped her get a job working with a payroll supervisor on a government project where Kitty learned construction administration. Kitty moved on to gain even more work experience as a "One Girl Office" for the Cohen Family Wholesale Business.
In 1946, after he returned from World War II
, Kitty and her high school sweethearts, Leon "Dick" Rodman were married. Dick re-enlisted in the United States Air Force
when the Korean Crisis occurred. Kitty came to Las Vegas in 1952 to be with her husband when he returned from Korea and was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. Kitty didn't think she would like being in the hot desert for very long and only planned to be in Las Vegas the shortest time possible. But, as she stayed, the people and the city began to grow on her.
In 1953, she became a student at the Dana McKay College of Commerce, which led her to the association with a newly-formed company, Sierra Construction Corp. Shortly after joining Bill Koerwitz and Gus Rapone, she became Director as well as Secretary-Treasurer and part owner of the company, a position she held until retirement in 2003.
Kitty's business partners credited her with a major contribution towards their considerable success. When she was asked about obstacles as a female in a male-dominated industry, Kitty replied that "she never experienced any obstacles. If you are qualified and carry your part of the load, you'll be given the chance to advance." She remained a lady in all situations and was always treated with respect.
Sierra Construction Corp. became one of the most sought-after builders in Las Vegas. In the beginning, Sierra built office buildings, bank buildings, schools, projects at the Nevada Test Site and Nellis Air Force Base. As the company grew, Kitty and her partners became involved in some of the best known projects in Las Vegas: Valley Bank Plaza (now Bank of America) downtown, The University of Nevada Las Vegas Flora Dungan Humanities Building, Golden Nugget, Binion's Horseshoe, Four Queens, Santa Fe and Mirage. They also built various phases of the Dunes, Fremont Hotel, Mint, Sahara, Sands, Hacienda, Flamingo, Las Vegas Hilton, Gold Coast, Tropicana, Stardust, Frontier, Bally's and Las Vegas Convention Center.
Sierra Construction Corp. was the first recipient of the Associated General Contractors of Nevada's first Skill, Integrity and Responsibility (SIR) Award for their work with their clients. In 2007, Kitty was recognized for her business achievements with induction into the Nevada Business Hall of Fame. At the time of her induction, Kitty was only the second woman honored at the Hall of Fame.
Kitty always looked back with pride after 50 years in the construction business in Las Vegas and enjoyed the fact that she, her partners and loyal, dedicated employee teams were involved in helping build the foundation that Las Vegas grew on. She said, "You know you have been around a long time when they start imploding structures it seems you just built yesterday, like the Hacienda, the Dunes and the Sands. But then, it is nice to remember the association we had with those then very young owners who are now creating the magnificent structures being built today."
Kitty not only helped build the foundation of buildings, she also helped lay the groundwork of success for many of the most worthy non-profit organizations. She helped charter a Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha in Las Vegas and also became a member of Zonta International and Executive Women International, all groups of women who dedicate the time and talent to philanthropic and educational causes throughout the world. Through these groups, Kitty became a pivotal force in the shaping of Nevada Easter Seals, Opportunity Village and various University of Nevada Las Vegas scholarship programs. Kitty served as a member of the UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees for 25 years and was elevated to Emeritus status in 2011.
In 2004, Robert Maheu, advisor to iconic Howard Hughes, wrote the following to Kitty: "During the many years I have known you, I have never seen such respect and love manifested – at all levels – as when your name is mentioned. And, I do not have to ask why. I know why! You deserve every bit of it. Your achievements in business, your work for charities and worthy causes and your innate ability to be just plan "Miss Kitty" make you a person to be admired."
Kitty will be greatly missed by all her friends and associates. Special thanks to Patricia "Patty" Badame for the 53 years of devoted service and for the care she has given Kitty in her last days.
Kitty requested there be no memorial service for her. She will be interred at Palm Valley View Memorial Park.
In Kitty's memory, your condolence or contribution would be appreciated to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, c/o Nancy Strouse, Executive Director, UNLV Foundation, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Box 1006, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1006, or to Opportunity Village, c/o Linda Smith, Associate Executive Director, 6300 W. Oakey Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89146.