Roger went to the Lord, unexpectedly on January 7, after a brief bout with pancreatitis at age 66.
Born on June 18, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, he grew up in Skokie, Illinois and spent most summers with his family and friends enjoying the pleasures of Waupaca’s beautiful Chain O’Lakes. Roger was a Boy Scout and Sea Scout. He learned the joys of swimming, boating, water skiing, and scuba diving from his parents. They encouraged him as a teenager to challenge his self sufficiency with close friend, Bill Eckmann, on the Boundary Waters. In middle school, Roger met another lifelong friend, Keith Lencho, and together they joined the area Young Republican Club.
Roger always felt that it was a great honor to work as a volunteer for his congressman, the young Don Rumsfeld, later to become U.S. Secretary of Defense. Advice from Congressman Rumsfeld steered Roger to Marquette U. and enabled him to meet and fall in love with Linda. Hard work for candidates during high school earned Roger and Keith prized seats on the Goldwater train, as Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater campaigned through the Midwest. Also aboard was Miss Hilary Rodham (Clinton), then an Illinois Young Republican.
After graduating from Niles North High School, Roger met Linda Lee at Marquette University, Milwaukee, in Fr. Abbick’s British Literature course during first semester, junior year. One common bond from the beginning was their love of William Shakespeare’s works. Roger was already pursuing a military career as a member of Marquette’s R.O.T.C. In the unit, he taught swimming to fellow midshipmen and very successfully competed on the Navy Rifle Team.
Never allowing “grass to grow under his feet,” Roger tapped into his high school band and music skills to teach pre-music at several Milwaukee elementary schools, becoming their much-loved “Mr. Saxette”. Then on Saturdays, Roger taught trumpet and melophone at Steuben Jr. High.
The end of senior year brought a flurry of important events: Roger was commissioned a Lieutenant J.G. in the U.S. Navy; Roger and Linda graduated; one week later, on May 31, 1969, in St. John’s Cathedral, Milwaukee, they began their 44 year odyssey together. Roger and Linda honeymooned at Roger’s favorite place in the world–the family cottage on the Chain O’ Lakes.
Soon engineering training took them to San Diego, and in October of ‘69, Roger reported for duty in what quickly became their 2nd favorite place in the world, Newport, R.I. There Roger went off to sea while Linda began her teaching career. Eventually, Uncle Sam took Roger to Naples, Italy for extended duty. Following that assignment, Roger and Linda vacationed in London over Christmas, falling in love with England’s superb theater tradition. Then in Edinburgh, Scotland, Roger encouraged Linda to follow her dream by purchasing bagpipes and learning to play them. After 4 years, Roger retired from active military duty. Then Roger and Linda took the Shakespeare Institute graduate course with Roger, in a kilt, portraying Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Back in Waupaca, Linda was tapped to teach in Hortonville, and Roger was hired by the state to work in New London. He also utilized his G.I. Bill to obtain his MBA degree from UW-Oshkosh and was later honored as Outstanding Alumni of the Year in Business School. Roger also graduated from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Successful, fulfilling career moves included serving as Field Director for Toby Roth’s first winning U.S. Congressional campaign; working as an in-house consultant at American National Bank, Chicago, on special projects; serving Reuters as a trouble shooter on their “cutting edge” stock trading systems in Franklin Park, IL.
From January, 1991 to 2003, Roger served Gov. Tommy Thompson and the people of Wisconsin as an innovative Administrator of Motor Vehicles. He focused the DMV on being a BUSINESS to SERVE the customers. That focus equally encompassed both customer service and the staff who provided it. One of his joys was going out to the customer service centers and working along side staff to provide quality customer service. He personally read and considered every customer comment card. Roger was passionate about his job and empowered his hardworking, dedicated staff. Together, they made Wisconsin DMV #1 in the nation. During this time, Roger served as a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Examiner, and held many leadership positions in AAMVA (Am. Assoc. of Motor Vehicle Administrators), and IRP (the International Registration Plan).
For 28 years Roger and Carl Nelson were partners in Chain O’ Lakes Marine at Clearwater Harbor on the Chain O’ Lakes. As water patrolman and later in partnership, Roger instructed youth in boating safety for 35 years. Roger was a proud member of the Waupaca County Republican Party, serving as chairman and 44 years, volunteering on numerous campaigns throughout the state. He also took pride in the 50 year membership he has just achieved in the U.S. Naval Institute. Roger was an avid car collector and loved working the DMV booth at Iola’s Old Car Show. He enjoyed Bible studies, loved detective stories as his grandmother did, delighted in singing and listening to many types of music, and loved seeing the world–sometimes on skis. He and Linda just returned from Ireland in November.
Roger is survived by his wife, Linda and puppy, Seamus. He was preceded in death by his father, James and his mother, Virginia (Ginger) Cross. The Funeral Service will be held on Wednesday, January 15 at 11:30 a.m. at Victory Church in Waupaca with Philip Thompson, officiating. Visitation will Tuesday evening from 4 – 8 p.m. at the Holly Funeral Home and also on Wednesday morning from 10:30 a.m. until the time of services at the church. Burial will take place later in the spring at Lakeside Memorial Park, Waupaca.
Thanks to the dedicated doctors, nurses, and support staff of Riverside Hospital for the loving care shown to Roger and Linda. Holly Funeral Home in Waupaca assisted the family with arrangements.