PILR staff Remembers Roger

Chris Owens, Executive Director:
Roger believed that everyone has the right to live, love, work and play in the community of our choice, and to that end was quite outspoken.  Roger’s passion was working with our youth with disabilities.  He wanted them to be proud of being a person with a disability and to be contributing members in the community.  Nothing gave him more joy than when a youth he’d mentored came up to him to tell him about becoming employed.  His PILR family misses him greatly.

Erica Rivera, Independent Living Services Coordinator:
I have had the privilege of working with Roger for the past 11 ½ years. He was not only my co-worker; he was my friend, my mentor, my family. He had so much knowledge and was my go to person on most days. I can’t even count how many times he helped me out with work, in my personal life and with my children. No matter what he may have been doing or had going on he always made time to talk with me and offer some of the greatest advice. He encouraged me and believed in me when I didn’t always believe in myself. I miss hearing his voice, miss his sense of humor and quite frankly I just miss him! Heaven gained another angel, may you rest in eternal peace. Forever in our hearts and memories, I love you!

Adam Fortna, Business Account Manager:
I remember he was telling a story to a class of high school students about his first interview. It was over the phone for a dishwasher position at pizza place here in town. He answered all the questions well and was offered the job. After getting the offer he told the employer that he was blind. The employer took back the offer and told him “I can’t hire you what if you burn yourself on the oven”. Roger responded “You’re right I can’t work there, because I do my dishes in the sink not the oven” Quick witted was just one of Rogers Great qualities.  Roger was an outstanding advocate for people with disabilities. He would often quote Justin Dart saying “Vote as if Your Life Depended on it…Because it Does”. The world lost one of its greatest assets this week and I miss him dearly already.

Karrlita Fortna, Administrative Assistant/HR:
I first met roger when I started working at PILR two and half years ago. We worked closely together on many of his presentations and youth events. I assisted him with youth advocacy training, where I probably learned more than the students did. It was wonderful to see his passion for encouraging independence and pride for who you are, especially with a disability. He didn’t let his disability stop him from living a full life; he was very involved in the community and a great advocate for accessibility and inclusion. During the first Youth Advocacy training I assisted with, I learned about many of the hardships that previous generations endured. That knowledge of what people with disabilities had to fight through isn’t well known, certainly not compared to other minorities. I miss Roger and the passion and knowledge he shared with anyone that would listen, I wish that I would have had more time to get to know him, but I appreciate that I had the chance to spend a couple years learning from him.

Tammy Fuhr, OIB Independent Living Specialist:
Have you ever met someone that you could turn to with any question and they would have some sort of answer for you?  Well this was Roger.  Whether the question was simple or not he would always have an answer.  That is just one of the many qualities he had.  One of my favorite stories with him was when I was being his sighted guide.  As we know he is much taller than most of us.  As we were walking down the sidewalk we passed a tree.  I, not thinking of him being taller, ran him right into a hanging tree branch.  I felt horrible. But because of it, we both laughed it off and laughed many times after that when telling the story to others.  He was also my go-to person when I had questions about anything that had to do with blindness.  Working with people with low vision I always had questions about something.  The more I work with individuals and the more knowledge I gained from Roger the more I wanted to learn.  An opportunity was presented to me to take some classes to learn how to read and write braille.  I went for it and many times would have Roger check my work.  While in the hospital I went to visit him.  One of the requirements to visit was that you had to take a stuffed animal for his zoo.  I picked out a stuffed husky dog and then went to find a card for him.  I went home from the store and for the first time ever I brailled out the card so he could read what it said without asking anyone.  There is so much more I could share about him but I will end with he was a wonderful coworker, friend, family, and most of all mentor.  I couldn’t ask for a better mentor and I will miss him dearly.

Cindy Daniels, Employment Specialist:
It’s hard to know where to even begin writing about someone that has not only made such an impact on my life, but on so many others as well.  I first met Roger when I started working at PILR in 2011. Roger honestly knew the answer to everything! Not only was he smart, Roger was a very giving person.  A good example of this was last year when we were doing Disability Mentoring Day and a student needed black slacks to wear to his work site.  He didn’t have a pair, and when Roger found out about it on the day of DMD, he went out and purchased a pair for him to wear so the student could go to his job site.  This was just the type of person Roger was. He would do anything within his power to help someone. And if he couldn’t help them, he would find someone that could. I often gave Roger a ride to and from work, and he would always text or call me and ask if he could “con me out of a ride”.  I miss hearing that from him and just being able to go back to his office and talk to him. Roger was never too busy to take time out of his day if you needed a break, or an answer to a question.  He was always there for anyone that needed him.  He was a great mentor, role model, advocate, and friend. I know that I am a better person, just by knowing him.