Windham resident and community icon Don Rogers maintained his familiar congenial smile for over two hours last Sunday as a capacity crowd joined him and his family to offer congratulations and birthday wishes during an open-invitation celebration held at the Windham Veterans Center.
Rogers, who turned 90 years young on September 21, shook hands and traded stories and jibes throughout the occasion.
“I didn’t know I knew so many people,” he later commented.
Don was formally introduced by Norma, his wife of 61 years, and by sons Scott and Dale. A roast soon began when Dale, who works for Grondin Construction, quipped that he had just been to the quarry digging dirt that was as old as his father. And, “I can’t believe you lived this long having me as your kid.”
Fellow parishioner and friend Ron Wain said he checked Genesis in the Holy Bible to be sure “the first man was named Adam, not Don.”
One speaker said he researched the major events that happened during Roger’s birth year, 1925, but found that “nothing happened.” He attended one room schoolhouses, including Windham’s old Town House (now headquarters for the Windham Historical Society). He joined the Army Air Corp during his senior year of high school and served through the end of World War II, completing high school in the service. Following the military, Rogers worked in his father’s excavation business, M.L. Rogers Inc., until the 1980s. He is a member of American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham, the Windham Alumni Association and the Masons.
Many recognize Rogers for his prominent spot in the annual Windham Memorial Day parade, riding in a vintage Mustang open convertible. Gary Plummer noted that Rogers has been “part of the framework of this town for my entire life, and it’s an honor to be his “chauffeur” during the parade. Plummer recalled that one year Rogers asked him, “When you’re done with this car, can I have it?”
Applause broke out several times during the get-together in reference to Roger’s military service.
Representative Patrick Corey observed that Rogers “still fits into his military uniform from more than 60 years ago.” Senator Bill Diamond thanked Rogers for his service to country and the town, adding “It is a privilege to be your friend.”
Rep. Mark Bryant, speaking for the legislative delegation, presented Rogers with a formal legislative sentiment (see insert).
There were also serious and sentimental moments. Nieces Bonnie Gouzie and Dorothy Petrie shared special experiences they had with their uncle. Gouzie says she’ll never forget the snowy night when, as a young girl, Uncle Don invited her along while he plowed town roads. She said they rode in the big rig through the blizzard talking and telling jokes. And regarding his influence in her life proclaimed, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making me feel so special. You are my anchor.”
Petrie echoed a similar relationship with her uncle, saying “He is one of the hardest working guys I know – you love me for who I am and I love you very much.”
Following the greetings of over 100 well-wishers, the solemn stories and good-natured roasts, and the official sentiment from the Maine Legislature, Rogers was asked to comment. He paused and said, “Well, I’m not talkin’ today. Can’t think of a thing (to say). Thanks.”