Rollin Wesley Zimmerman obituary photo
 
In Memory of

Rollin Wesley Zimmerman

July 28, 1915 - May 13, 2017

Obituary


Rollin W. Zimmerman
A Legacy of Selfless Service
Retired Sheriff Rollin W. Zimmerman left for Brevard County Community an unprecedented legacy of selfless service and accomplishments, Sheriff Zimmerman loved Brevard County and all its people up until he took his last breath on May 13, 2017. He passed away peacefully at home with his family by his side.
Born on July 28, 1915, (he would have been 102 this year), in Sandusky, Ohio, Rollin was the second oldest of four children. At an early age, the family moved to Toledo, Ohio. He was a quiet,...

Rollin W. Zimmerman
A Legacy of Selfless Service
Retired Sheriff Rollin W. Zimmerman left for Brevard County Community an unprecedented legacy of selfless service and accomplishments, Sheriff Zimmerman loved Brevard County and all its people up until he took his last breath on May 13, 2017. He passed away peacefully at home with his family by his side.
Born on July 28, 1915, (he would have been 102 this year), in Sandusky, Ohio, Rollin was the second oldest of four children. At an early age, the family moved to Toledo, Ohio. He was a quiet, shy young boy. Times were very tough during the depression for the family. Around the age of thirteen or fourteen, Rollin went to work as a golf caddy on the leading golf courses in the Toledo area to earn extra money. The pay was fifty cents for eighteen holes. He caddied for some famous golfers of that time.
With times being tough, he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle on a 120 acre working farm and fruit orchards. He learned a lot about live stock, farming and operating large equipment. His fruit was the finest in the area. People would drive from miles around to buy the many varieties of beautiful fruit.
Rollin met his wife-to-be Betty, the daughter of his uncle's good friend, while selling fruit at the fruit stand. Betty went on to nursing school as Rollin continued tending the farm. In 1940, he married his beautiful wife. They had three children, Janet, Donald and Tom. Together they ran the farm for a few years until they decided to venture out and buy a grocery store and gas station. They lived in the apartment over the store.
Their journey continued as they crossed the country to Eugene, Oregon, pulling a twenty-five foot Airstream Cruiser trailer, behind their Plymouth sedan. There Rollin operated heavy road equipment in the high mountains for the highway department. Their son Donald had severe respiratory issues in the damp climate, so they took to the road again.
In 1950, their travels took them down the Pacific coast through California, and then cross country, still pulling their Cruiser to Palm Bay, Florida, where his aunt and uncle who owned the farm lived in the winter months.
Rollin took a job at the "old ice plant" in Melbourne. A few months later he found and bought the Camp Fire Motel north of Cocoa on the Indian River. There were eight rooms. He fixed up the property and later renovated the rooms to apartments and added two more buildings of apartments and renamed it, The Camp Fire Apartments. Rollin and Betty built and moved into their new home in north Cocoa in 1956.
In his spare time, he and several other men in the area formed the Four Communities Fire Department. Rollin and other volunteers built the first Fire Station and equipment. Rollin also served as its Fire Chief for eight years.
The school board purchased a big diesel bus, number 105, and needed a driver for the Cocoa Beach route. Rollin was hired to drive it. The bus was large enough to transport the athletic teams; football, basketball, baseball and track, and equipment; to meets through out the state. Rollin drove #105 until he became a full time deputy.
During that time, Sheriff Jimmy Dunn had need of additional deputies. The population was expanding rapidly with the influx of "space workers". Funds were not available to hire new full-time deputies. So a group of men volunteered to act as part time auxiliary deputies. Since there were twelve of them, they called themselves "The Dirty Dozen".
When Sheriff Leigh Wilson came into office, and funds became available, some of the "Dirty Dozen" were hired on full time. Rollin was one of them. He served as road deputy for several years before being assigned the Juvenile Liaison Officer. The then Lt. Zimmerman saw the problems of young folks not only on a personal basis but also as his role as the Juvenile Liaison Officer. He had an intense interest and unquenchable desire to help all ages of kids, of wanting kids to enjoy life to the fullest. Thus, his mission and purpose become clear to him. He had a heart that refused to give up on the youth. No matter what child stood before him with issues, he did what he could to redirect them away from a path of destruction to a path of successful outcomes and dreams come true.
Rollin made a promise to himself and to God. A promise he would share at his anti-drug programs. Several years earlier he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He had twenty-seven cobalt treatments on his throat. During a follow up examination, the doctors saw the cancer had returned. He was scheduled for surgery the next day. He spent the whole night in prayer in his room at Shands hospital, in Gainesville, Florida. The next morning as he was being prepared for surgery in the operating room, the doctors did another exam. To the amazement of the doctors, there was no sign of cancer on his larynx. There was no sign that there had ever been cancer in his throat. The doctors said this is "a miracle" and they were astonished beyond belief. His lead doctor called him at home for several years afterward. With great gratitude, he made a promise to God for saving his life-and his voice that he would help kids be the best they could be. Both promises were kept!
In fulfilling that promise, Rollin refocused his life in his unending work to save every child possible from the horrors of drugs. Everyone in Brevard County knew that "Zim", as he was fondly called, would be there to answer the call at any time day or night. Someone was always in need. He traveled all over the county counseling the young people and their families. A man with a Spirit of Service.
The outgrowth of this promise, commitment and dedication for the Youth of Brevard County was his forming of the Junior Deputies program. The idea and co-founding of the Hacienda Girls Ranch (his pride and joy) was born in the mind and heart of Brevard County Juvenile Officer, Lt. Rollin Zimmerman. Over 17,000 young women, to date, have called the Hacienda home for part of their lives, the ranch offered a safe haven at a vulnerable time in their lives. He also created the Drug Abuse Programs. You could ask any one of these kids how they felt about their true friend, then Lt. Rollin Zimmerman. He is "A man who listens to their problems", "is concerned about them", "gives thoughtful advice" and "helps them through difficult circumstances" would be their response.
Last, but certainly not lest, you can ask those many, many adults today who were teens then, who through his influence and caring, decided not to try any drugs or to "give it up", as a result of the multi-hundreds of anti-drug education programs Rollin conducted in the schools and churches all over the county.
So many people lately have stopped to tell Rollin how grateful they are to him, that he inspired them to embrace the greatness of who they are, to be happy and prosperous and for some, to be alive.
As Capt. Zimmerman, he was honored by the Florida Jaycees as the "Outstanding American" for 1971. He was honored by the Sertoma Club with "Service to Mankind" award in the Southeast Region; "Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of Florida" by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and nominee fort he J. Edgar Hoover award in 1968 and 1969; by many other civic, school and women's clubs.
His most prestigious award was a commendation from the White House in October 1970 in "recognition of exceptional services to others, in the finest American Tradition," from then President Richard Nixon. But none of those awards were any more valuable to him than the faltering words of "thanks" from thousands of people who told him they are off drugs because of him - or received their high school diploma because of him - after considering being a "drop-out", or turned over a "new leaf" and stayed out of trouble, because of him. So many young lives were saved.
In 1976, he was approached by many people, hundreds of calls and other forms of support, who wanted him to run for Sheriff. His words were, quote "I am not a politician-I have no experience." But the handwriting was on the wall, so he ran. He ran as an "Independent" in a seven-candidate election and received the vast majority of the votes on the first ballet. He had a great "grass roots" support for all his efforts for Brevard's youth. He was now Sheriff Rollin W. Zimmerman. This was the first time this had ever happened in the state, an Independent, non-politician, winning by a landslide, in a partisan race, on the first ballot!
Most of his campaign goals and pledges went into effect during his term as sheriff. A promise and a pledge to the people that he would inaugurate programs in the Brevard County Sheriffs Office that would make Brevard County a safe place to live. Through his efforts and programs of crime prevention, his office had succeeded, as reported by the FBI, in stopping the growth in the crime rate to "0" in Brevard County from the previous year, a decrease in traffic fatalities, and was recognized by the state for it, just by putting more deputies on the road and fewer behind the desk. He knew that "If you prevent a crime, you will not have one to solve." He wanted his deputies to work for the people and perform the job they were paid to do, with more visibility of department vehicles and a quicker response time.
Other innovations he brought into the Brevard County Sheriff Office included, the Neighborhood Watch programs, volunteer school crossing guards, the motorcycle squad, the helicopter squad, the drug sniffing dog "Duke" and the county jail farm to grow their own food. Even as the Sheriff, he worked the roads, making house calls, answering calls to businesses and others.
On January 1,1980, Sheriff Rollin W. Zimmerman retired.
He and his wife Betty loved the mountains of Western North Carolina. Several years before his retirement, they had bought a historic mountain cottage summer home on a five-acre plot of land, with a beautiful stream in the back yard, near Hendersonville, North Carolina. They sold their residence here in Florida and moved to their mountain home.
He tended the land with some new fruit trees, put in a garden, beautiful flowers, renovated the home's interior and exterior and kept the rolling yard pristine. The view from their back deck of the mountains was breathtaking. They lived in the home until his wife of sixty years passed away in 1999. He remained in his home several more years before returning to Brevard County.
Representative Bill Posey honored Rollin with the Floridian and Treasure Awards on his 99th birthday. Rollin is the first to receive both awards.
Rollin is predeceased by his son Donald in November 2016.
This is the journey of a courageous, fearless, committed, loving, giving, compassionate man, a husband, a father of three, grandfather of six and great-grandfather of fourteen and great-great grandfather of two; a man who held a high vision for the good of all the people, and kept his promise to God and himself to be of service.
A Celebration of His Life will be held at the First Baptist Church of Merritt Island Sunday June 4, 2017 2:30 pm.