Home » Features » The adventurous life of Rod Hernley, Loretto’s Denver tech guru

The adventurous life of Rod Hernley, Loretto’s Denver tech guru

Posted on April 1, 2023, by Christina Manweller

Rod at his work space at Electronic Devices, Inc.
Photo Courtesy of Rod Hernely

“If I had to describe Rod in three words, they would be gracious, generous and calm. In the 12 years I’ve known him, he has always made time to assist Loretto and Loretto’s people, freely offers resources and equipment, and never, in all the time I have known him, have I seen him frazzled by a technology problem or puzzle. When I think of how frustrating technology glitches can be, that kind of patience and calm is pretty incredible. It is a pleasure to work with Rod, and to call him a friend.”
Rebecca Sallee Hanson, Loretto communications team member and webmaster

Rod Hernley, president of Electronic Devices, Inc. in Denver, has provided computer and tech support for Loretto for more than 20 years. Again and again he has gone above and beyond, including this year, as he works to shut down the computer systems at the Denver office.

Even as a kid, Rod had the ability to take apart an object, see what was wrong and repair it. At six or seven, he surprised his parents when he dismantled a broken doorknob, spotted a small spring that had slipped out of place, and fixed it. Rod says, “That ability to take things apart and reassemble them correctly is just something that came with the body!”

Rod enjoys his work: “The constant change in technology provides a learning challenge that keeps me on my mental toes.”. He is a gifted tech guru, but it is his deep kindness that draws people to him. His benevolent heart and engaging personality belie early life challenges that could have led to bitterness.

He spent much of his childhood in hospitals, undergoing 13 major surgeries, many experimental, by the age of 12. He was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition that shortens ligaments and causes joint contractures. After birth, his parents were told that it was unlikely he would walk. Rod says, “My parents were willing to try almost anything to see what could be done.” Surgery after surgery to modify ligaments and bone structure meant he routinely spent months recuperating in bed. Physical therapy filled hour after hour and he was in and out of casts for many years.

Rod was born into a Mennonite family in Indiana. He says, “My childhood was way less traumatic than others would have been, because I had such loving parents.” In a letter to her sister the year he was born, his mother wrote, “We had resolved if our little boy would never walk, we’d see that he grew wings … and that otherwise his life would be as normal and happy as any other child’s life.” They told him if he was willing to try, and keep trying if he failed at first, he would succeed.

A young Rod practices walking.
Photo courtesy of Rod Hernley

After years of time and effort, the help of countless doctors, nurses, his parents and sister, Rod was able to walk. It wasn’t easy. He fell again and again. With his parents’ support, he got up over and over. Crutches were par for the course. His sister Ellen, two years younger, was always ready to assist her big brother.

Being different is hard on children, at school and out in the world, and Rod had his share of trials, but his parents helped him overcome them. Kids would ask why he didn’t walk the way everyone else walked. His mother suggested he answer, “That’s just how God made me.”

Rod learned to walk, but he didn’t just walk. Walking turned out to be a baby step. Later he became a skier. And he didn’t just ski. He worked with an instructor to adapt his ski equipment to compensate for the disability, including adding five-inch lifts inside his boots to shift his center of gravity and make up for his knees’ inability to bend more than 45 degrees. In his 30s he became one of the top competitive disabled ski racers in the country. He brought home a bronze medal for the U.S. in the 1984 World Winter Games in Austria. Rod created devices, including the lifts inside ski boots, that have helped other disabled skiers to succeed.

He married Barbara, who was supportive of his racing, in 1978. After a devastating ski accident in 1986, which damaged and disarranged internal organs, requiring major surgery — an accident one doctor said would have killed just about anyone else — Barbara asked her parents, “Why couldn’t he have collected stamps?” Three months later he was racing in Sweden.

In the late 1970s and for the next 10 years, he headed organizations that support disabled sports, including the Committee on Sports for the Disabled for the U.S. Olympic Committee. He was inducted into the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame in 1999.

Rod racing in Sweden in 1986.
Photo Courtesy of Rod Hernley

Rod traveled the world as a freelance photographer right out of college, seeing much of Asia, then Israel, Palestine, some African countries and most of Europe. His favorite destination, he says, was India: “The ancient architecture was truly stunning.”

Rod is a man on the move. He has stopped skiing but participates in several golf leagues. And of course, he runs his business, assisting Loretto and other organizations with IT issues. He is writing a book about growing up disabled. Several organizations have expressed an interest in his story, as it may help parents of disabled children.

Rod has appreciated his many years working with Loretto; he says, “The staff was such a pleasure to work with. They were warm, friendly, and above all, very honest to work with!” Those of us who have been blessed to work with Rod count ourselves incredibly fortunate to know him.


Christina Manweller

Editor of Loretto Magazine, Christina’s nonfiction and poetry has appeared in numerous publications. For many years she served as Director of Communications for a Colorado-based peace and justice organization. Her background also includes English and writing instruction at a local community college, digital and print design work, and photography. One of her joys is visiting the Loretto Motherhouse once or twice a year.
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