By Dennis Nartker
"A barber is the only person whose conversation you can follow, even though he talks over your head."
GREENBACK, Wash. — His last customer before he retired in 1995 and closed "Pete's Barber Shop" in Kendallville was Cleon Point.
There must have been some interesting conversation that day.
Alfred J. "Pete" Rogers, 86, of Greenback, Washington, and formerly of rural Kendallville, died July 16, 2014, at his residence.
He was born Alfonsas Rodowich on Sept. 10, 1927, in Newark, New Jersey, to Walter and Anele (Varnis) Radowich, Lithuanian immigrants. He spent his formative years in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, a small coal mining town where he enjoyed hiking and camping in the mountains and swimming at Lake Hauto in the summers. At that time, his name was changed to Alfred Joseph Rogers, nickname "Pete."
He came to Kendallville in 1944 to visit his sister, Estelle, and liked the town so much he decided to finish his senior year at Kendallville High School. After graduation he joined the Merchant Marines, serving from 1945-1947 in Europe.
Returning to Kendallville, Mr. Rogers attended barber school and worked with the late Harold "Gabby" Davis. They had a two-chair shop at 113 W. Mitchell St.
Being single at the time, he was one of the first young men to be drafted for the Korean War in 1950. He was discharged in 1952, and resumed barbering, playing golf and ice fishing.
He married Clarice Joy Whysong on Aug. 11, 1956, in Helmer. They lived in the Cree Lake area for 51 years. His retirement winters were spent at his home in Greenbank, Washington.
Mr. Rogers worked as a barber in Kendallville for 47 years.
He opened Pete's Barber Shop at 112 E. William St.
For thousands of Kendallville area men extending two and three generations, "Pete" Rogers was their barber, confidant and sounding board for complaints about city, state, national and international happenings. The conversations with customers often turned to sports. He was an avid Indiana University fan.
"Pete" was my barber for more than 30 years. I played junior high and high school sports, and I can recall sitting in the swiveling barber chair on Saturday mornings re-living that week's East Noble basketball and baseball games with Mr. Rogers. He often stopped cutting, stepped back to look me in the face during conversations or talked to me as we looked in the mirror on the wall behind the chair.
Although he enjoyed ice fishing and playing golf, Mr. Rogers especially enjoyed following his son's and grandson's sports activities at the high school and college level. I joined him once for a road trip to Indianapolis to see the Indiana Pacers play the Washington Wizards. Mr. Rogers' nephew, Tom Gugliotta, played for the Wizards. We met Gugliotta on the court before the game. I took a photo of uncle and nephew and wrote a story about the experience for The News Sun.
"Grandpa spent many hours throwing batting practice and retrieving errant basketballs for his three sons who were East Noble athletes," said his grandson Jay Rogers at the recent memorial service for "Pete" in Kendallville.
Mary Kribbs of Massillon, Ohio, remembered Mr. Rogers as "Pete" the barber while growing up in Kendallville. "It was fun to walk by the barber shop because he would always wave to us through the window. I loved that that. It is a lovely memory for me."
After his sons graduated from college, life for "Pete" and Clarice was more relaxed. They enjoyed visiting their family in the summers. In 1995, after the loss of their son Peter, Mr. Rogers retired. In 2011 "Pete" and Clarice moved permanently to Whidbey Island, Greenbank, Washington, where they enjoyed mild temperatures and views of the Cascade Mountains.
He is survived by his wife Clarice Rogers of Greenbank; two sons and daughters-in-law, Thomas and Catherince Rogers of Midlothian, Texas, and Eric and Dana Rogers of Coupeville, Washington; and two grandsons, Jared and Devin Rogers of Midlothian, Texas.
He was preceded in death by his youngest son, Peter James Rogers, on Feb. 28, 1995; his parents; three sisters; and a brother.
He lies in Lake View Cemetery, Kendallville.
Published in KPCNews on Aug. 10, 2014