Bodner was a master builder in Boyle, Lincoln counties

Published 8:30 am Saturday, September 25, 2021

BY BRENDA S. EDWARDS

Contributing writer

Marvin Bodner, master builder in Boyle and Lincoln counties, spent most of his 51-year career constructing new houses and remodeling more than 50 historic houses in the Danville area.

He began building houses in Louisville with his brother, Rudolph, in 1945 after serving in the Army during World War II.

Marvin returned to Lincoln County in 1948 to begin his business which continued until his death in 1999.

“His business philosophy was to always produce a high quality product at a reasonable cost,” said his son Paul Bodner.

“He was a kind and gentle man who treated everyone with utmost respect and patience.

“In his heyday, customers would wait for two or three years to have him do their work. Generally, he became good friends with all the people he worked for.”

Bodner Construction had three key employees who were employed between 35 and 50 years — Gene Steinberger and Pat Fitzgerald and Marvin’s brother, Clarence. Each individually supervised projects with Marvin being the ultimate person who personally supervised each project.

Large projects

Marvin built Greenleaf Shopping Center in Danville, for Jim Stagg of Danville and Ken Morgan of Lexington, and Suburban Motor Lodge on Maple Avenue in 1962 for Bill Edmiston, E.P. Woods and E.G. Guttery.

He also did major renovations to historic properties, and built new dormitories and buildings on the Centre College campus, including: Moore-Welsh House (president’s house) built in 1859; Alumni House; Overstreet House (dean’s house) built in 1792; and dorms on Main Street, and houses for many Centre professors and staff.

Historic properties

One of the larger renovation projects was in the 1960s, Marvin did a complete remodel of the historic Roselawn mansion and built a farm manager’s house for Charles E. Beck of Garden City, N.Y., a native of McKinney in Lincoln County.

Roselawn on Harrodsburg Road, was build in 1848 for William Owsley, former governor of Kentucky. He and his wife lived there 10 years before his wife’s death in 1858.

Roselawn also has a connection to the Rodes family, one of Danville’s oldest families.

Clifton Rodes was the son-on-law of Governor Owsley. The governor purchased the farm land in 1838 and established his son-in-law’s family on the property until the dwelling on the farm burned in 1847. The Rodes family moved to Danville after the fire.

The residence at Happy Valley Farm, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Gamble of Proctor and Gamble, was renovated and an addition was added by Bodner Construction.

Marvin also built a new house on the farm for one Gamble’s daughters. The property is currently owed by Rick Dees, an entertainer and radio personality.

Major renovations were made to the Ashley House in Garrard County for the Maddox family from Bermuda.

The house dates back to 1840 when the antebellum home was built by a wealthy southern family.

The Todd-McKee-Cheek House, NorthThird Street, dates back to 1836, currently owned by Paul Bodner, underwent a complete renovation in the late 1980s.

John Todd, first owner of the house, was thought to be a relative of Mary Todd Lincoln. The McKee and Cheek families resided in the house from 1850-1989, when Paul purchased it.

Two houses owned by the Rodes families were renovated by Marvin.

The Benjamin Perkins House built in 1818 house and owned by Mary McDowell Rodes, widow of Nelson Davis Rodes Sr., corner of Lexington Avenue and North Second Street, was completely gutted. Marvin made interior and exterior renovations in 1967 and added a screened-in back porch. The interior was renovated again after Dr. Russ Shearer purchased it.

Marvin also made major interior renovations on the Montgomery-Rodes House, c.1837, for Nelson Davis Rodes Jr. and his wife, Martha Butler Rodes. The house is currently the home of John and Julie Rodes and the 5th generation of the Rodes family to live in the two-story brick structure.

Glenworth, a historic house on Buster Pike underwent major exterior renovations by Bodner construction. It was built by Robert Mosely Davis in 1828, on land formerly owned by the early Robards family.

Rachel Donaldson Robards, daughter of Lewis Robards and Rachel Donaldson, later married Andrew Jackson.

Mr.and Mrs. Zack Ison owned the house during renovation.

The first house Marvin built in Danville was in the early 1950s for Judge Maurice J. Farris Jr. on Magnolia Drive. He built houses for many of his friends: Russell Carney, Dr. Julian Hardaway, R.W. Leake, Judge Pierce Lively, Drs. Dan Moran and his wife, Katie Bright Moran and Dr.Bill Pesci.

He also built houses in Green Acres, Weisiger Woods, Swope Drive, Magnolia Lane, and on Lake Herrington.

World War II veteran

During his time in the military, Marvin served three years in the Army during World War II. He was drafted in December 1942 and served until December 1945 during tours in India, Burma and China.

Marvin was the first generation of the Bodner family in the United States. His father, Mike William, was 8 years old when his parents Thomas and Anna Prunster Bodner came from Sachsenburg, Austria, to America in 1886.

The Bodners settled in the new Austria community on White Oak Road in Western Boyle County.

Mike married Anna Gaddis, who grew up on Harris Creek Road in Lincoln County.

Marvin married Doris Marie Johnson of Moreland and they had one son, Paul Douglas, who married Myrian Arguello Leal of Managua, Nicaragua. Marvin had two granddaughters, Katherine Michelle, and Anna Christina Bodner.

Marvin was active for 40 years in Moreland Methodist Church where he served as lay leader, Sunday school teacher and superintendent.

Marvin’s funeral was in the old Methodist church as were the funerals of his father in 1928, his mother in 1966, and his wife in 2001.

His daughter-in-law Myrian, often said: “Marvin’s life was truly an example of the ‘Great American Dream’.”

Marvin Bodner’s family moved  from Austria to the United States in 1886 when his father was a boy. His father died in 1928 when Marvin was six years old leaving his wife and eight children at home on a small knob farm during the Great Depression.”

His son Paul said “from this humble background, through hard work, intelligence and ambition, my daddy went on to have a very successful life, both personally and professionally.”