Mel Kaufman played in three Super Bowls as a linebacker for the Washington Redskins.
(Washington Redskins)

Mel Kaufman

Linebacker for Redskins in ‘80s

Mel Kaufman, 50, a Los Angeles native who played in three Super Bowls as a linebacker for the Washington Redskins, died Feb. 7 at his home in Santa Margarita.

An autopsy determined he died of natural causes, specifically an intra-abdominal hemorrhage related to pancreatitis. Kaufman had complained of abdominal pains before his death.

Kaufman made the Redskins as a free agent out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1981 after catching the eye of Bobby Beathard, then the team’s general manager.

Beathard, also a Cal Poly alumnus, was at the university to work out another player, defensive back LeCharls McDaniel. He ended up signing both.

Kaufman went on to start 78 of 91 games with Washington. He ended his playing career at the end of the 1988-89 season.

A team captain, Kaufman played on the Redskins’ victorious Super Bowl teams in 1983 and 1988 and in the 1984 title game, which Washington lost to the then-Los Angeles Raiders.

After retiring, he served as the team’s scouting supervisor for several years.

Kaufman was born Feb. 24, 1958, and earned two varsity letters in football at Santa Monica High School.

At 6 foot 2 and less than 220 pounds, Kaufman was considered undersized for a linebacker but after a redshirt year at Cal Poly, he started for four years on a team that won the Division II national championship in 1980. He graduated in 1984.

Jim Fairchild

Mountain rescue team’s founder

Jim Fairchild, 82, an experienced mountaineer who helped found the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, died Sunday at his home in Riverside.

He died of natural causes, according to the Riverside County coroner’s office.

Fairchild, who has been called “the grand old man of mountain rescue,” was one of five founding members of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit in 1961.

He participated in hundreds of rescues for more than four decades and continued to help train rescue volunteers after his retirement in 2005.

He was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of the San Jacinto Mountains. He knew the terrain so well that he could guide lost hikers out of the wilderness by phone.

“In a whiteout, if you could describe your surroundings to him, he could tell where you were -- that’s how much he knew and how much he was up there,” said Gwenda Yates, a Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit board member.

Fairchild was born in Riverside on July 17, 1926, and worked for the Southern California Gas Co. as a meter reader for 40 years. Yates said he refused promotions because being a meter reader gave him the flexibility to take off from work as needed to participate in rescues.

When he retired from the gas company in the late 1980s, he became an instructor in outdoors education at Pathfinder Ranch near Idyllwild. He remained an avid hiker and was climbing Mt. Rubidoux in the San Bernardino Mountains a few days before his death, his wife, JoAnne, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Joe M. Rodgers

U.S. ambassador to France in ‘80s

Joe M. Rodgers, 75, who served as U.S. ambassador to France during the 1980s, died Feb. 2 at his home in Nashville after battling cancer.

Long active in Republican Party politics, Rodgers served as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee for three years beginning in 1979. He also served as national finance chairman for President Reagan’s reelection campaign in 1984. Reagan appointed him ambassador to France in 1985 for a four-year term. His ties to Reagan stretched back to 1976, when he was the Tennessee finance chairman for Reagan’s primary campaign against President Ford.

Rodgers was born in Bay Minette, Ala., on Nov. 12, 1933, and grew up in Montgomery, Ala. He earned a civil engineering degree at the University of Alabama and served three years in the Coast Guard.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, his firm, Joe M. Rodgers and Associates Inc., built more than 200 hospitals for the Hospital Corp. of America.

After suffering a heart attack in 1977, Rodgers sold a majority stake in his company and moved into real estate development.

After returning from France, Rodgers served as chairman of the Tennessee Family Institute, an affiliate of the evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family.

In 2008, he served as co-chairman for the presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.).

-- times staff and wire reports