Edward “Jack” Rogers died April 20, 2014, in Maynard, Massachusetts, on the same side of the bed he had slept in since 1987. He was 77 years old. It was Easter morning.
Professionally, Mr. Rogers’ life was divided into two eras. Until he was 65, he worked as a traveling salesman. This mostly paid the bills. It also impressed his wife when they first met, as the large briefcase he carried spoke of importance. But this was not his passionate career.
His passionate career began after retirement, in the decade he spent as a monitor at Acton-Boxborough High School. High-school students are not simple. There are those who might even call them difficult. But Mr. Rogers wasn’t one. He and his wife had only child together, but the students were his children, too, and he loved them. The feeling was returned. His son said that picking him up in front of the school was like chauffeuring a president.
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From 7 to 3 every day, hallways, library, and cafeteria needed patrolling. There was also the parking lot, where tough-minded students brought secret cigarettes. Mr. Rogers would approach them and ask for a drag. “I didn’t know you smoked,” a student would say, handing his cigarette over. “I don’t,” Mr. Rogers would answer, stomping it out, “and neither should you.”
He was a befriending person, who sat next to loners at lunch, and supported unsuccessful athletes. Eventually, his hours swelled to more than full-time, because when he was invited to a student football game or lacrosse match or the opening night of some play, he went.
Cities are patrolled by men carrying nightsticks and guns. Mr. Rogers patrolled the high school carrying a walkie-talkie and a nine-pound bag of candy. He tossed pieces to everyone he passed, carefully following regulations: nothing unwrapped, no peanuts. He preferred spearmint leaves and jujubes himself, but they were against the candy rules.
He wasn’t handy in a traditional way. He could carve a bird from a piece of wood, but never mastered the television clicker. The computer mouse eluded him completely. Yet he knew the name of every student in the school. For this, he needed a good brain but a great heart.
Did you know Jack Rogers? Share your memories in the comments section.