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Someone who certainly found happiness in helping people in need was Rodger Clifton, señor of the friendly smiles and generous tips.
The tranquility of this fishing village, which had yet to experience the level of tourism and resorts of today, was what attracted Rodger and Jeanette to bring their family to live here, making their way to Puerto Peñasco across the yet to be remodeled Sonoyta highway. Accompanied by his inseparable wife and lifetime partner Jeanette, and following numerous visits to Puerto Peñasco, in the 90s the couple chose Puerto Peñasco as their home where, even before fulling setting up house their story of altruism within the community began. This started with associations such as CEDO (Intercultural Center for Desert and Ocean studies), as well as with those in need who happened to cross their path.
Detailing each altruistic act Rodger Clifton was involved in would take many a paragraph, yet this can be summarized in the joy he found in the smiles of all the people he could help, knowing he could resolve an economic or health issue of someone in need. Ever since he arrived in Puerto Peñasco, Rodger was involved in projects – such as the CEDO board, construction of facilities for the Amores Children’s Shelter (Albergue Infantil Amores), direct support of the José Dávalos Casa Hogar home for the elderly, as well as the construction of more than 2000 homes for families in need, among many others.
Upon arrival in the port, Rodger quickly surrounded himself with enterprising folk, which is how he met Enrique Rodríguez who he lovingly “adopted” like a son. Among his diverse activities, following a lengthy background in real estate in the United States, Rodger began the company First Mexican Investments while remaining involved in “people” projects.
“For him,” recalls Rodríguez, “the only form of payment was a happy face; he hoped to see a smile when he could help, it gave him satisfaction, he had no other interest other than helping.”
Among the forms of support that stand out were monthly resources for Albergue Infantil Amores, as well as direct resources to expand the gardens, chapel, and dining room area on the José Dávalos Casa Hogar.
Another benefit made possible through the intervention of Rodger and Jeanette Clifton, was that for construction of more than 2000 homes in coordination with the U.S. organization “Amor Ministries”. The Cliftons were fundamental in first bringing “Amor Ministries” to the community, where the organization continues to build homes to this day.
Other projects included the “Earth Ship” tire house at CEDO, a fly eradication campaign, promotion of recycling among junior high students involved with the “Earth Ship”, and encouraging the development of environmental contests with area schools.
Along with direct financial or in-kind support, Rodger worked with each municipal administration during his time in Puerto Peñasco. Far from criticizing actions of officials, he would work with them and support projects such as the Albergue Infantil Amores, along with the DIF, as well as activities at schools and hospitals.
Another of Rodger’s memorable qualities, recalled by dozens of employees, waiters, strolling musicians, and business leaders, was his relaxed manner of saving the day, week, or even season through his generous tips. Yes, that moment when the person tending to him was compensated with much more than s/he could imagine from a regular diner.
“He felt happy seeing the face of the person when they’d discover their tip,” retells Enrique, “There were those who shouted for joy, and Rodger felt happy in having been able to help, in having created a moment for that person.”
His tips turned into support for several groups, such as the time he went to the inauguration of his friend Larry Large’s new hamburger joint (the former MOAB in the Mirador). There Rodger told Larry, “I want the first hamburger cooked here!” and Larry responded, “It’s yours, but that hamburger is going to cost you $10,000 USD to support my foundation.” Once again, Señor Clifton turned a fun adventure into support for dozens of people.
He is also remembered for buying a small piñata made by the CAM La Montaña school for $2,280 USD at an auction, and in this way further helping the children of the school.
Each step Rodger took was accompanied by his wife Jeanette, an extremely loving individual who always dons a smile. Together they were a couple that could not be missed wherever they showed up.
Along with helping thousands of Puerto Peñasco’s residents, the Cliftons were involved in projects in many other cities. These included work with an orphanage in Altar, Sonora, and in more recent years the Santa Maria Soup Kitchen and Sister Jose Women’s Center in Tucson, Arizona.
Despite much success, and having touched the lives of so many people, Rodger never lost his sense of humility and simplicity. He never felt the need to tout his generosity, but rather demonstrated this through action.
In an interview with don Guillermo Munro for the magazine Nuestra Gente (Edition 38) in years past, Rodger explained among many of the projects he would liked to have seen was that of a public beach with services for the community. He also wanted to continue supporting student scholarships.
In Puerto Peñasco, administration after administration – as well as associations and the State of Sonora – presented Rodger with dozens of acknowledgements for all the support provided to the community. He and Jeanette’s names were selected to grace the road leading from the curios shops of “Rodeo Drive” to the Convention Center and resort complexes. In 1999 Rodger was named “Amigo de Puerto Peñasco” by the administration at that time. Similarly, in 2013 Sonora Governor Padrés presented Rodger with recognition for his valuable support to the real estate sector, and to the community of Puerto Peñasco.
2017 began with the departure of Rodger Clifton on January 5th, at the age of 81. His example lives on through his wife Jeanette E. Clifton, who he lovingly called his “Precious Yum Yum”, his children Patrick, Michael, Matthew, and the memory of his son Brian who preceded him in death, as well as by the sparkle of his eyes, his 10 grandchildren and a grandchild on the way. He also leaves behind brothers, daughters-in-law, nieces and nephews, many friends.
A Celebration of Life event for Rodger will be held this Saturday, April 1st at the Quinta Ventura event hall 3 pm – 7 pm