William Rogers

ROGERS, WILLIAM WARREN "BILL", 81, a resident of Severna Park, died peacefully at home on February 5, 2013 of congestive heart failure under the care of the Hospice of the Chesapeake. Bill was born on January 17, 1932 to the Reverend L. R. and Gladys M. Rogers in Bristol, Tennessee, the youngest of seven children. He attended Lincoln Elementary, Slater High School, Livingston College, and Bowie State University. Bill was a veteran, having served 12 years in the U. S Air Force. He then went on to work at the National Security Agency for over 20 years. After retirement, he then taught computer skills to students in Severna Park and Annapolis High Schools for 12 years. His computer lab was known as "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" and every day he wore a button-down cardigan sweater just as Fred Rogers did on his television show. Bill was greatly admired by his students, who would seek him out for advice and often times just to talk. He was a man who always listened intently to what others had to share with him. This trait served him well, as after retirement from the school system he became a professional storyteller. He studied with internationally renowned master tellers Donald Davis and Elizabeth Ellis to refine his craft. Bill became close to teller Eshu Bumpus and loved the stories of Ray Hicks, who was named a national treasure by the Smithsonian Institute. He was also a member of the National Storytelling Network and attended the National Storytelling Festival held in Jonesborough, Tennessee every October for over 20 years. Illustrator James Ransome included a painting of Bill in the book "A Pride of African Tales" written by author and storyteller Donna Washington. Bill also had a special friendship with prominent author/illustrator Patricia Polacco, whose stories he found very inspiring. He also traveled to many other storytelling festivals throughout the country, enjoying other teller's tales. Bill told stories everywhere to church groups, businesses, community and non-profit organizations, Baltimore Telebrations, as well as children's literature conferences for authors, illustrators, and teachers. He was even invited to tell for a wedding reception and a beach party for pre-schoolers! But his favorite venue was telling stories to children in many schools. He especially enjoyed the younger children who attentively and eagerly participated in the telling of his tales. The State of Maryland International Reading Association Council gave him the title of "Storyteller in Residence" after he told stories at their conferences for many years. He was also invited in 2009 to be a participant in the filming of a storytelling workshop entitled "What's Your Story?" which was televised and recorded on DVD. Several highlights of Bill's life were playing duet harmonica with renowned storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham, attending storytelling workshops on Ocracoke Island, having a figurine of him made by Sarah Schultz of "Sarah's Attic" fame, having his only grandson named after him, and personally meeting with Pope John Paul II when on a trip to Rome to celebrate Catholic University's 100th anniversary in 1987. Bill was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Retired Teachers Association, and the Anne Arundel County Reading Council. He volunteered with and served a term as President of the Severna Park Assistance Network (SPAN), was on the Advisory Board for the Department of Aging, and volunteered at Partners In Care. He ran a weekly discussion group at the Pascal Senior Center, and sang with the Pascal Go-Getters and the Retired Teachers Chorus. He gave back to the community in many ways, always greeting others with his infamous smile and enveloping hugs. Donald Davis, whom Bill considered his mentor, once said: "Bill's just a great personality. He's a kind of a bear of a guy and as soon as you meet him, you know Bill and you like him to start with". This was attested to when, on his 81st birthday, he received 160 greeting cards. Bill was truly loved by all who knew him, especially WOMEN, and most recently the Hospice Team of women who cared for him in his final year of life. This is attributed to the fact that his "mama" was a hairdresser who inadvertently laid the foundation for his attentiveness to the ladies as he spent his formative years helping in her beauty shop. His time spent there, listening and interacting with his mama's clients, fostered his ability to gain a keen insight into what made women feel special. Folks in the area may remember Bill when he sang with the students in the first and following five performances of Severna Park High School's "Rock-n-Roll Revival". Many fondly and laughingly recall his "duet" with Andy Borland. Bill enjoyed spending time at his camper for the last 10 years at Ole Mink Farm Resort in the Catoctin Mountains in Thurmont, Md. The quietness of the mountains reminded him of back home in Tennessee. He liked to say: "If you're lucky enough to live in the mountains, you're lucky enough". He also enjoyed his vast collection of Santa figurines, which he displayed year-round under a sign that read "Forever Christmas Eve". He is survived by Dianne (whom he lovingly called "Shorty"), his wife of 36 years, sons Jeffrey and Timothy, daughter in law Angela and grandson Bradley William, his namesake, as well as nephews Reverend L. R. Rogers III (California) and Michail (Baltimore), nieces Deborah Wright (Virginia), Leandra Williams (Tennessee), great niece O'Cheal Knox and great nephews Roger and Johnny Wood (South Carolina), children of Bill's niece Katherine Wood who pre-deceased him in 2002and last, but not least, Bert: his Boston Terrier who provided him much comfort. Bill was a member of the Living Water Inclusive Roman Catholic Community. A memorial service will be held at the Elks Lodge, 160 Truck House Rd, Severna Park, MD on Saturday March 16th from 11am 3pm. Mass will be held from 11:00 12:00, followed by a celebration of his life. In lieu of flowers, donations are asked to be made to the Hospice of the Chesapeake (445 Defense Hwy, Annapolis, MD 21401), Partners in Care (90B Ritchie Hwy, Pasadena, MD 21122), SPAN (400 Benfield Rd, Severna Park, MD 21146) or Northeast Interfaith Labyrinth & Peace Garden (5 Big Stone Ct, Catonsville, MD 21228).

Published in The Capital on Feb. 10, 2013