Raul R. Rodriguez, designer of Rose Parade floats, dies at 71

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 19 Februari 2015 | 12.56

Raul Rodriguez, an acclaimed float designer who created hundreds of floral confections for the Rose Parade, has died, his family announced. He was 71.

Rodriguez died of cardiac arrest at his home in Pasadena on Wednesday afternoon, according to publicist Harlan Boll.

Rodriguez's career as a champion float maker began at 15, when he designed his first Rose Parade float for the city of Whittier and took home a trophy. He went on to design at least 500 floats and won multiple awards.

A third-generation Angeleno, Rodriguez was born the day after New Year's Day, 1944, the oldest of three born to a sheet-metal worker and a department store supervisor. He was raised in Boyle Heights, and his family moved later to Whittier, Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs.

His parents recognized his knack for art early and encouraged him, he later told The Times. "My mother wouldn't erase the drawings I did on the dining room wall," he said in 1992.

He made his debut as a Rose Parade float designer in 1960, when he created a design titled "Snowbound" for the city of Whittier. Rodriguez and his family camped out overnight on Colorado Boulevard that New Year's Eve, warming themselves with hot chocolate and waiting for the float to drift by. He took home a trophy that year.

"Early in my life, I got to see my imagination become reality," Rodriguez told The Times in 1995.

Rodriguez attended the Art Center School of Design and Cerritos College.

He joined the Army and was stationed in Taipei; upon his return he enrolled at Cal State Long Beach, where he specialized in drawing, painting and illustration.

He formed a design firm in the late 1970s, producing work for casinos such as Caesar's Palace and the Flamingo in Las Vegas and Reno's Circus Circus.

But parade floats remained his passion, despite the fact that months of work was routinely dismantled soon after the procession ended.

"It doesn't bother me at all," Rodriguez told The Times in 1992. "Life is moments of beauty. Everything is temporary."

"So many things get left to chance," he added. "The weather might wipe out blue cornflowers, so you have to think of something to replace them. A few years ago, Santa Ana winds kicked up and toppled a 19-ton circus tent on seven of my floats. Suddenly, a lot of people who thought they'd have time off for Christmas were working 24 hours a day."

In a career spanning more than 50 years, Rodriguez produced at least 500 floats. His last appearance at the Rose Parade was in 2013, when he and his bright blue macaw, Sebastian, rode in a float designed for Dole, which featured two giant parrots perched on a tree and a volcano with bright-red petals for lava.

Rodriguez's survivors include his spouse, Robert Cash, and his sisters Irene Rodriguez-Morgan and Teresa Arzola.

A funeral service is planned for March 7 at 11 a.m. at St. Andrew Church, 311 North Raymond Ave., Pasadena.

For breaking news, follow @cmaiduc on Twitter.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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