H. Thompson "Tom" Rodman Jr. says his love affair with Midcoast Maine and his awareness of his father's struggle with addiction both began in the summer of 1960, when Rodman was 11 years old.

“It was the best memory I have of my childhood, that three weeks we spent on Lake Megunticook," the now 64-year-old Rodman said during a March 4 interview. “By the end of the summer I knew that I was going to someday live in New York City and I was going to have a place on Lake Megunticook.”

Despite being the best summer of his life, Rodman said that was also the point at which his father's emotional and mental state began to unravel. During the next three years, his father, Rev. H. Thompson Rodman Sr., was prescribed a multitude of medications to treat what Rodman referred to as his father's "demons."

“He was like a walking drugstore, he had a pill for everything,” Rodman said.

While living in San Antonio, Texas, a then-14-year-old Rodman was awakened one night by his mother's screams. Rodman said he ran downstairs to find his father prone on the floor.

"[H]e had taken an overdose of pills and had a whole lot to drink, been drinking all night, writing notes," Rodman said. "He'd had a plastic bag over his [head].

"They put him in a straightjacket and then strapped him to a gurney, rolled him out. And he was gone for three months.”

Rodman said he initially attributed his father's nervous breakdown to "purely the demons that he was fighting," but now believes Rodman Sr.'s instability was exacerbated by alcohol and drug use.

From that point on, Rodman said, his father's solution to any domestic difficulty was to threaten to commit suicide.

“It was life on a powder keg for five years," Rodman said. "And then, when I was 19 and he was 51, he finally was successful in ending his life…through the combination of an overdose of the prescription drugs and alcohol.”

Rodman said as a minister's son, he felt powerless, thinking that his future was "preordained."

“I felt victimized by him and his situation, and that it was my destiny not to be successful, to be the failure that he accused me of being," Rodman said.

“I don’t drink, and I don’t swallow pills, and so my wife and my kids will never see that — and haven’t — and I doubt they ever will. They’ve never seen me intoxicated.”

According to Rodman, years of therapy didn't quash a rebellious streak in his personality, but a turning point came in his 20s.

“I decided that all this anger wasn’t taking me anywhere," Rodman said. "Somehow I discovered that I wasn’t a victim, that I could claim dominion over my own destiny, and that was a real breakthrough."

Deciding to change his mind, Rodman said, was enough to alter his entire outlook.

“I changed the way I thought about who I was, what the world was about, and how I fit into that map of reality," Rodman said. "And I said, ‘I don’t have to be a failure, I can be successful, I am entitled, I can prosper.’”

Listing his goals and then following them has allowed him to enjoy "a measure of success, not all about money,” including his 28-year marriage to wife Mariella Smith-Masters, two grown children, and a 38-year career as an investment adviser.

“[We have] two dogs and a couple houses, and one of them’s here in Maine, so how great is that?” Rodman asked.

Compelled to share his vision with others, Rodman co-founded the nonprofit organization Strive International — an attitude workshop — in the early 1980s.

“[I]f you’re not a victim, if you’re not living your life as a victim, if you do change the way you think…your life can change profoundly, beyond anybody’s imagining," Rodman said. "And so I felt compelled, if not ordered, to share that [idea] with people that need it the most.”

Despite living in an affluent neighborhood in Manhattan's Upper East Side, Rodman said he knew that "25 blocks north of me there was incredible poverty, and people living on the streets…that saw themselves as victims. I said, ‘They’re doomed.’ As long as you see yourself as a victim, guess what you are? You’re a victim.”

According to Rodman, Strive International's first class graduated in 1985. Following several profiles on television show "60 Minutes," the organization expanded significantly, and now operates in 20 U.S. cities, as well as three locations in the United Kingdom and six in Israel, he said.

“I've discovered that the greatest source for my soul’s aggrandizement is helping people discover their essence," Rodman said. "[To] know who they are and what they really can be, and to shed themselves of everything that obscures that, whether it’s alcohol, prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, feeling victimized, whatever.”

Rodman said the idea for turning Camden's Fox Hill property into a rehabilitation clinic came from Legacy Properties' Leslie Tranchell. Mutual friends Merril and Dolores Halpern relayed the idea to Rodman, who said he told the couple, "'It’s certainly intriguing, certainly a long shot. I know nothing about the rehab industry…and I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know.'"

After a visit to the 235 Bay View St. property, which was previously owned by MBNA cofounder Charles Cawley, Rodman said he was convinced the site would be suitable for "high-end rehab."

“It was compelling," Rodman said.

Wanting to match the facility with the "finest therapeutic delivery system" available, Rodman said associate Arden O'Connor — a Harvard graduate and founder of nonprofit organization Rediscovery, Inc. — recommended Rodman approach McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School psychiatric teaching facility affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rodman subsequently contacted McLean Hospital's Senior Vice President of Business Development, who Rodman said was "intrigued" by the proposition.

Rejection on March 5

Following eight months of negotiations, meetings with the Camden Planning Board, and talks with property abutters and the general public, Rodman's purchase and sale offer was rejected by Fox Hill Investments on March 5.

"I'm personally devastated. Devastated. I feel as though I've been tackled from behind," Rodman said March 5.

Rodman said he now fears Fox Hill will be auctioned off, selling at "a rock-bottom price."

“If I owned the property right now and it had been on the market as long [it has], I’d be a little tired," Rodman said the day before. "[T]o maintain the grounds and maintain the buildings and the heat and so forth and so on, it’s a lot of money to operate [Fox Hill] every year."

"I’m just afraid…[the owners] are weary, and they’d hit one of these lowball offers, and voila, you’ve got whatever you’ve got there, instead of what I think its best purpose and best use is. Instead of me, instead of us.”

Any discernible haste in the ensuing eight-month process, according to Rodman, was due to the fear that Fox Hill would be sold to another party before the town of Camden approved the proposed zoning special exception that would have enabled the establishment of the rehabilitation facility in Camden's Coastal Residential District.

Rodman said he doesn't think McLean Hospital's presence would have had an adverse impact on Camden's reputation as an artists' colony.

"I mean, there’s nothing bad here for the community from a standpoint of people being aware of it, prestige," Rodman said. "You’re going to have a lot of…perhaps a hundred [affluent] people a year coming up…and their families, and introducing them to the area, if they’re not already already acquainted with it."

Rodman said the proposed facility would have generated a "significant payroll…plus ancillary business," including employment and contracting opportunities.

Regarding the Fox Hill property's appearance, Rodman said nothing would have changed should it have become a rehabilitation facility. "If we [decided] to keep the name Fox Hill, if there’s a sign out front, that’s all it would say: Fox Hill. No ‘rehab,’ no ‘division of McLean [Hospital].'"

Rodman said no other project would have employed so many people while simultaneously collapsing traffic demand.

According to Rodman, if the proposed Fox Hill rehabilitation facility had become a reality, he would have lived on the grounds full-time.

"[I was going to] keep the grounds in good order…make sure that the property and the buildings are maintained, and taxes are paid. That’s a big one: taxes are paid…And be a good citizen of Camden, and be a good neighbor to Bay View Street people.”

Rodman described the potential alliance with the 200-year-old hospital as "a great partnership," and on March 5 said not being able to aid the hundreds of people a Fox Hill facility would have served is "a tragedy, a great tragedy."

Dr. Philip Levendusky, McLean Hospital's senior vice president of business development, authored a letter expressing the facility's interest in Fox Hill. He is also "extremely disappointed," Rodman said.

Despite the seeming dead-end, Rodman bears no ill will to any involved parties. "The Planning Board's been terrific with us…they're smart people, they had a firm grasp on the proposal."

Of Fox Hill seller Ellen Simmons, Rodman said, "I have every reason to believe she's nothing but a wonderful person," adding that he doesn't think the decision not to sell was "in her best interest."

"There was no risk to the seller and her flexibility," Rodman said.

Rodman said every neighbor with whom he has met has been supportive of the project. Given the encouragement from the seller and various representatives, the rejection of his March 5 option "just doesn't make sense."

"There is a higher purpose for Fox Hill," Rodman said. "Not for condominiums or movie stars — I think it's for this plan we have.

"I'm hoping that it's not over, because I'm an optimist," he added. "I felt like this was my destiny."

Camden Herald reporter Bane Okholm can be reached at 236-8511 ext. 304 or by email at bokholm@courierpublicationsllc.com.