For those of us with an interest in the history of our town, we are fortunate to have known Rod MacKenzie, the assistant librarian and genealogist at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. For those of you who never got acquainted with Rod, shame on you for missing out on knowing one of the most knowledgeable and nicest men around.
Rod died on Dec. 9. His passing saddens me and numerous other people who worked with him or sought his help in researching their family history or some facet of life in Fairfield.
I had known of Rod for decades, but it wasn’t until the last year that I saw firsthand his kindness and deep knowledge of Fairfield. While working on a four-part series on the Civil War for the Fairfield Citizen, I spent many hours inside the library and the Fairfield Museum and History Center perusing the archives, which he knew so well.
When I was assigned the series, the first person I sought out was Rod, who guided me in outlining it and particularly on the second installment, which featured some of the men from Fairfield who fought in the War of the Rebellion. His face lit up when he provided me with stories and details about Maj. John Buchanan Morehouse, who he called the single most important figure in Fairfield’s Civil War history, and Christopher Columbus Wells Jr., who not only saw considerable action in the war but was Fairfield’s first rural free delivery mail carrier, using a horse-drawn cart. In honor of the Civil War sesquicentennial, Rod organized earlier this year a walking tour of the East Cemetery on the Old Post Road, where Morehouse and Wells – and numerous other Fairfielders with familiar last names – are buried. I watched as he delighted in showing the participants the various headstones and sharing historical tidbits of each of the men.
Each time I walked into the center’s library, Rod greeted me like I was an old friend, and always was quick to get a file from the archives or answer a question. When I told him that I also had been researching my family history, he seemed pleased and asked me about my finds and gave me a few tidbits of help in my search.
Roderick B. MacKenzie was 75 years old and a lifelong Fairfield resident. He worked at the Fairfield Historical Society (the precursor to Fairfield Museum and History Center) and the Pequot Library for more than 30 years. He graduated from Monson Academy in Massachusetts and Salem College in West Virginia and received a Master of Social Work from the University of Connecticut. He became interested in genealogy, which began his journey at the historical society. According to his obituary, he began a genealogy program at the Pequot Library; he was a member of several genealogy organizations and was a Mason like his father and grandfather before him.
A memorial service will take place at a later date. His wish was for donations to be made to the Fairfield Museum and History Center, 370 Beach Road, Fairfield CT, 06824 or www.fairfieldhistory.org or to the Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Ave., Southport CT 06890. The Shaughnessey-Banks Funeral Home is handling arrangements. To send an online condolence, visit www.shaughnesseybanks.com.
Thank you, Rod, for sharing your time and talent. I, for one, am fortunate to have known you.