Roger Allen, of Rockford, Michigan, and formerly of Cedar Springs, died Saturday, January 5 after a long battle with heart disease.
He was well known in both communities as publisher of the Rockford Squire newspaper and founder of The Cedar Springs Post. He wrote a weekly column for both papers, and many people appreciated Roger’s wit and humor. It was one of the most popular pages in the newspaper. If his column didn’t run for some reason, people called and wanted to know where it was.
Roger was the son of Elizabeth and Joseph Gilbert (Gib) Allen. He was born in Washington D.C. on June 20,1928.
He was a veteran of the United States Army and served in the aftermath of World War II, but before the Korean Conflict. The Post interviewed him in 2008 about his time in Korea.
“I joined shortly after my 18th birthday,” said Allen. He served for 18 months in the US Army field artillery from 1947-1948. “I was sent directly to Korea. I went there and stayed there. I couldn’t even get a weekend pass,” he said.
Allen said he didn’t see any action while in Korea. “We did a lot of guard duty,” he noted. He said that there was only one time he was close to shooting someone. “I was on guard duty at the hospital and it was dark. There was a Korean boy rummaging around in the trash. I couldn’t shoot him because I forgot the word for halt,” he said with a grin.
Allen said the most memorable events for him happened during World War II, before he went into the service. “During the war, clothes, meat and gas were rationed. The entire country was wrapped up in the war.”
He said everyone listened to news of the war on the radio and saw it on newsreels in the movie theatres. “The Battle of the Bulge, the landing at Salerno, fighting in North Africa, Japan landing in the Aleutian Islands, Germans sinking ships. It was a tough time,” he recalled.
Allen said that his mother was an air raid warden during that time in New Jersey. “We had to have the shades drawn, and lights out so that the bombers couldn’t see us. She walked the neighborhood making sure everyone did that,” he explained.
He noted that the war seemed quite close with German ships in the Atlantic. “I had an acquaintance, on a supply ship, who was sunk by a destroyer just off the coast of Atlantic City,” he noted.
Roger married Alice Vautier Fairweather September 7, 1950. The couple had four children, Kristan Elizabeth, Lois Jean, Mark Fairweather and Elizabeth Jean. Kristan preceded her father in death. Roger is also survived by his sister, Nancy of California.
Roger was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He was a founding member of Homeland Security, and a long-time employee of the government, working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At the end of his career he was the media spokesman who gave interviews to television and press reporters following natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
Roger was a modern-day Renaissance man. For many years he raised his children on a farm in Cedar Springs, raising much of the family’s food and bartering for goods. Roger and Mark built the home and farm buildings themselves. Many times he called being publisher of the Rockford Squire newspaper the best job he ever had. He bought the Squire when it was the Rockford Weekly Register and in bankruptcy in the early 1980s. He felt that it was important that the town’s oldest business and only newspaper stay in publication.
He bought the Squire while living in Cedar Springs, and his neighbors complained and told him they wanted a newspaper in Cedar Springs, too. (The Clipper was no longer printing.) So he founded the Cedar Springs Post in 1988 and turned over the reins to his wife, Alice, and daughter, Lois. His daughter Beth runs the Squire.
Roger wrote his weekly columns without fail for over 30 years. When he traveled, he called the column Roger on the Road, and when he was in town he called the column Main Street. His column always featured jokes, anecdotes and his own wry commentary on world events. After a heart surgery several years ago he was no longer able to travel. He bought property in Rockford, built a house and lived out his last days there.
Family and friends will gather from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2013 at Pederson funeral home to reminisce about Roger and say their final farewell. But his clever wit will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew him, and in the archives of the local newspaper.