On October 22, Grandfather Death invited Roger Easson to the Holy City. There, he now celebrates lives-well-lived with his mother and father, Geraldine and George Easson, with his in-laws, Casey and Wayne Parkhurst, with blessed friends, students, colleagues, teachers and the line of his people going back to the beginning. Those who survive to carry on Roger's work are his wife, Kay Parkhurst Easson; his brother, Donald Easson and his wife, Ginny (Bluffton, South Carolina); his two sisters, Janet Eickhoff and her husband, George (Tampa, Florida) and Joyce Kepner and her husband, Al (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
In 1945 Roger was an uninvited guest at a Thanksgiving dinner party, when his very pregnant mother bent over to pick up a serving spoon, allowing Roger to make his entrance. From this auspicious birth, Roger went on to other unconventional events. He never graduated from high school. Instead, he fast-tracked to Pittsburg (Kansas) State University, receiving a BA at the age of 19. He pursued graduate studies at PSU, with additional work at The University of London, earning his MA at the age of 20. Roger slowed down a bit when he went to The University of Tulsa for doctoral study; he was 24 when he graduated from TU on May 31 with a PhD. in Literature. On June 1 he married Dr. Kay Parkhurst. Roger and Kay celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary this year.
In the Seventies, the new doctor, Roger Easson, taught literature and writing at Illinois State University. He was invited to join the faculty of the Summer Literature Institute at the State University of New York in Buffalo. He moved to Memphis to teach at Memphis State University where, as a Turn-Key Trainer, he helped to implement the New Jersey Writing Project into MSU's curriculum. He was, briefly, Director of the Arkansas Writing Project, for which he was honored with the designation, Arkansas Traveler, by Governor Clinton.
During the Eighties, Roger worked in Denver for McDonnell Douglas Astronautics as Senior Technical Editor, adding to his writing experience with computer assisted instruction. He returned to Memphis to work for Guardsmark as Vice President of Corporate Communications and for Tickle Publications as Managing Editor of St. Luke's Press. During the next 26 years Roger found his academic home, first as Associate Professor, then Professor of English at Christian Brothers University. At CBU he directed the Writing Center, assisted in establishing the English for Corporate Communication degree and guided students through internships at Memphis businesses.
With Kay, Roger edited an international academic journal, Blake Studies, 1968-1983, dedicated to the art and poetry of William Blake (1757-1827). Together Roger and Kay wrote and edited 5 academic books about Blake's work. With Robert Essick, Roger wrote the two-volume William Blake: Book Illustrator. During their work as Blake scholars, Roger and Kay collected a significant library of rare books and art which they donated to the Special Collections of McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa.
Roger's writing extended to subjects other than Blake. He collaborated with Robert Sigafoos on the corporate history of Federal Express, Absolutely, Positively, Overnight; with Sidney Davis, on Delta Airlines: Debunking the Myth; with Dr. Luther Crabb on I Can See: The Story of Radial Keratotomy; with Gordon Osing on Town Down River. Roger was especially proud of his most recent collaboration with D'Army Bailey, The Education of a Black Radical, published by Louisiana State University Press. The star of Roger's writing career is his seven-volume fantasy novel, Song of the Storm Rider, because he wrote all seven novels during the years he fought the advance of his cancer and because he filled the seven volumes with the enormous range of his interests and knowledge.
A life-long Yellow Dog Democrat, Roger was a member of the Shelby County Democratic Party's Executive Committee from 1993 to 1995. During that service he founded the Party newspaper, The Democrat, which continues to publish today.
Roger lived a productive life with the assistance of many talented and generous people. In the years of his illness, his body benefitted from the care of Dr. Jason Chandler and the West Clinic and from the caregivers of the Methodist Hospice Program. He would want to acknowledge the loving care given him by Sandra Bolden. He was embraced by the spiritual companionship of Mother Dorothy Wells of St. George's Episcopal Church in Germantown.
Roger's ashes will be interred in the Columbarium at St. George's Episcopal Church. There will be a Celebration of his life at a future date.
Published by The Commercial Appeal on Oct. 27, 2016.