One June morning in 1967 when I was in the second grade, my father walked into the bedroom my sister Susie and I shared with a commanding presence. We stopped dressing for school and gave him our full attention as he said, “You’re not going to school today: your Uncle Roger is coming home from the war.” A master storyteller, Dad let the weight of notable moments come through in such pronouncements.
We convened at our grandparents’ house with other relatives and soon, Uncle Roger Haggerty the elder’s brown Rambler pulled into the driveway and young Uncle Roger, aged 23, walked through the front door into the arms of our grateful family. I stood back in the living room as he made his way through a flurry of embraces, and I have a particular memory of a private moment I beheld him as he exchanged hearty greetings with his siblings. I had a clear view of him through the crowd and I don’t remember what my expectations were of a returning soldier, but I was very struck by how tan he was. He stood with a military bearing and I remember especially that his blue eyes looked electric against his dark skin, and he was so handsome in his uniform. It was a breathtaking moment I’ll never forget.
The house was filled with pride as we all felt a share in the honor that he had served our country. Years later, after his third child was born and he lived just a block from us, our mother died suddenly and Aunt Eileen moved in to take care of us. Uncle Roger gave up months of Saturdays to finish our basement so Aunt Eileen could have a space of her own. This not only cut into his precious leisure time as he established his fledgling career at Chase, it took him away from his young family which was certainly his priority. Years later, Uncle Rog again set aside his life to transform a small home in
Floral Park into a dollhouse for our aging grandparents. He’s also given generously to his community through Habitat for Humanity and other outreach programs.
Uncle Roger’s life is a beautiful model of selflessness that begins with his unique sensitivity and compassion. Through knowing him I’ve learned it is more important to listen than talk, that solutions, not judgments, should be the goal, and that giving is its own reward. From the moment he stepped over our family threshold following his tour in
, he has made his life count in the most important ways. He inspires us through actions not words, leading by example as he always thoughtfully considers the world outside himself. Once, when I listened to Louis Armstrong’s song “Wonderful World,” I realized it is not only a pleasant contemplation of the world, it’s a philosophy that demonstrates a way of looking at the world. Uncle Roger sees the world this way: by what’s right with it, and all his goodness emanates from that perspective. Vietnam
And somehow, even as he built a successful career and raised five children, he has managed to continually challenge himself toward new frontiers of personal growth, particularly through trials of physical fitness and now realizing his dream of thru-hiking the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail. That moment I looked into the eyes of our family hero in 1967 has never diminished for me. Uncle Roger has kept that honor alive and it continues to grow and inspire us as we who love and admire him once again look forward to his coming home.
|Deb and Trolley Stop at Rita (Gorey) Lunning's Retirement Party in 2004. Rita is Trolley's older sister with whom he shares a birthday.|