Rollin Wesley Zimmerman
Rollin Wesley Zimmerman
  • July 28, 1915 - May 13, 2017
  • Rockledge, Florida

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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.