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Fresh Eyes Column

by Caroline Downs

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This one's for Roger . . .

Posted 1/22/13 (Tue)

Word came to us last week about the death of former Kenmare resident Roger Drobash.

And that’s about all we know. So far, our office has not received an obituary, although Fay has been requesting one.

I didn’t know Roger as well as many of you did, but here’s what I remember:

He loved this town, and he loved most of the people who lived here.

Roger introduced me to several features of Kenmare because he came into our office frequently.

We did a lot of photocopying for Roger. He kept meticulous records and scrapbooks on the events and stories related to Kenmare, and often something he needed to save out of The Kenmare News was printed on the back of another article he wanted to keep.

Every Wednesday, he would come in to buy his newspaper, and most Thursdays or Fridays he would return so we could make copies for him.

I never knew much about Roger’s past, not like some of you, although I realize he was a disabled veteran and that he had deep compassion for other military personnel.

We began our acquaintance over those photocopies. Roger liked to talk and he would often fill me in on the background, history and gossip related to the stories I was copying for him, some of which I had written.

By the time I met him, he was plagued by poor health and myriad aches and pains, but he paid attention to everyone and everything in the community. He struggled to walk, but he made his stops around the downtown square faithfully to keep tabs on the latest news, comings and goings.

In good weather, he spent time in the city park, sitting on a bench or one of the concrete lamp post bases to peruse his mail and his copy of The Kenmare News. A photo was taken of Roger in that position and the late Vernell Hanson painted a picture to match it, the park resplendent in vibrant summer colors and Roger reading his newspaper with great concentration.

The late Glenn Dill, a former Kenmare attorney and surely one of Roger’s many friends, bought the painting. Vernell painted a second one for Roger, which delighted him to no end.

Roger wanted the people he loved to be cared for as well, and he appreciated the health care system. A scholarship in his name is still offered to nursing students at Minot State University awarded to “...a relative of a current or former member of either Trench Rat Dugout No. 436 or Disabled American Veterans Chapter No. 4.”

By the way, he never would tell me much about the Trench Rats whenever I asked him, but the sparkle in his eye let me know he was extremely proud of his affiliation with that organization to help disabled veterans.

Sometimes Roger would talk about his many collections--most often referring to his coins and commemorative plates. Among his treasures, however, was a red three-ring binder filled with the “Fresh Eyes” columns I wrote for this newspaper.

Each week, he carefully cut out my words and secured them in a plastic sleeve to protect the paper. I knew he collected other stories this way and had them organized according to topics, but I never realized he had decided the words of a new reporter were worthy of his efforts.

One day, not long before he moved to the Veterans Home in Lisbon, he came to the office and presented the binder to me. To see those columns--a couple of years’ worth by that time--tended so thoughtfully and arranged so carefully was humbling.

Roger admonished me to keep up his work because I would want a collection of my columns someday, and he was right. I have to confess I have not kept up with the binders through the years, but I do have the columns saved in special files on my computer.

Roger’s collection of my columns inspired me. He offered the gift of seeing the value of the work through his eyes and heart, and I treasure that gift indeed.

While Roger still lived in Kenmare, I enjoyed seeing him and talking with him and hearing about the updates to his collections, but I don’t think he was ever a topic for a “Fresh Eyes” column.

So, Roger, this one’s for you. You taught me how to have a heart for Kenmare’s citizens and stories.