During our second year in Bakerville, Sally Jo started a women’s Bible study. Six or seven women came…including Barb, Nancy, and Pat. Sally Jo and these three have maintained their friendship since 1968…keeping in touch through telephone calls, letters, e-mails, and a few weekend trips together. When Barb’s husband, Ward, was 50 (and I was 50) Ward suddenly died. I was the minister for the funeral. Three weeks ago Nancy died of pancreatic cancer. I was a minister for the funeral. This past Monday was the funeral for Roger, Pat’s husband. I was a minister for the funeral. Roger and I were the same age. Sally Jo and I are the only remaining couple.
Roger was 20, a concrete worker, when he married Pat who was still in high school. After a few years Roger had his own, successful, concrete business. He was big, strong – tough! The early years of Pat and Roger’s marriage were sometimes very stormy – but they were determined to make a go of it. They did for 47 years.
They had two children, Cassie and Bill. I asked Pat if she was interested in starting a nursery school in the church facility. Roger told her to go for it. Under Pat’s leadership the nursery school’s reputation and numbers grew.
Roger was not only developing a reputation as a cement contractor, but, in the small community of Bakerville, as a man who would help people in time of need. He could fix almost anything. In the winter he would plow his neighbor’s driveways, and knowing his neighbor’s schedules, would make sure they could get in and out as necessary to meet their normal schedules. Everybody knew Roger.
Pat asked Roger, who had never gone to college, what he thought about her going to college to become a teacher. Roger told Pat to go for it. Pat graduated from college and became a grade school teacher.
Roger became very sick with Legionnaire’s disease – a disease that killed many people. Slowly he recovered and then continued with his concrete business, but was not able to work as hard physically as he had before being sick. Though Roger was slowed down physically, he continued to meet needs of those in the community.
After a few years he started having a series of mini-strokes, and with each he lost physical strength. After several of these strokes, he realized he had to get out of the concrete business. This once big, tough concrete worker was no longer able to work physically. But he continued doing little things for people, including plowing their driveways and being “Uncle Roger” to the two small children who lived next door. Everyone knew that, weather permitting, he would spend several hours each daily sitting on the bench in front of Pat and Roger’s home, watching over the neighborhood.
Roger also cared for his wife, Pat. Roger did the shopping and prepared a wonderful dinner for her every evening. Sally Jo and I enjoyed one of those dinners in the home they had worked hard to make beautiful a few months ago.
The night before the 8:00AM grave side service, Sally Jo and I stayed in the home of daughter Cassie and her husband, Kevin. We listened as Cassie told many insightful stories about her dad. I asked Cassie if her dad ever complained. Her response: “never!” At the graveside, I invited the eight family members present to share their experiences with Roger. Out came stories of how Roger had cared for them…and others.
There are many ways to respond to adversity. Big, strong, tough, hard working Roger was slowly reduced to a man who had great physical limitations. He never complained, and continued to care for his wife, plowing his neighbor’s drive ways, and as he was able, cared for people with needs in the community.
Though Roger never went to church, one of his neighbors stood up at the memorial service and said “Roger was Jesus Christ to me.” What a reminder of how I should live as one of God’s redeemed.