Jean Rogers was born at home in Willow Grove, Pa. in 1931.
"We lived in a big old stone house with nice big rooms, an outdoor toilet, a pump outside for water, an oil stove for cooking," she said. "There were 10 kids: five boys and five girls. Everyone helped out. After chores and homework were done, we would play baseball with Dad. We always found things to do. The extent of our technology was sitting around the radio listening to 'The Shadow Knows.' We didn't get our first TV, an Admiral 10-inch black and white, until I was 9 or 10 years old."
After high school, Jean married and raised two boys and two girls. Before she had children, she raced in stock car races.
Jean Rogers poses at Bissell’s Field during the 90-Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic.
(Photo — John DiGiacomo)
"It was called the Powder Puff Derby," she said. "I enjoyed the thrill. I was scared, but once in it I didn't want to get out."
Once the kids were all in school, she went to work at various jobs. These included children on the school playground, driving a school van for a private school; working as a touch-up painter in a wicker furniture factory, making blinds at Elmar, retail in a 5 and 10 and a gift shop, working at Burpee Seeds company, and working in the laundry room of a motel.
Her youngest son, David, contracted childhood leukemia.
"It was rough to watch him struggle," she said. "He would get sick at night and I would have to run him to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. But David looked forward to life. He wanted to do all he could. He was taught at home the last few years, and graduated from school. At 15, he had a bone marrow transplant from my oldest daughter, which gave him another five years. "Eventually, David lost his hair, and his eyesight became very bad. At the end, he was in a coma, but the doctor said he could still hear us. You could feel his hand move, like he was saying, 'Pease let me go.' After a week of no improvement and being informed he could have irreversible brain damage, we decided to pull the plug, because he was suffering so much. It was hard, yet it was a relief. He died when he was 20."
After retiring at 65, Jean turned her sights to travel. She went to many places, including Disney World, Virginia Beach and Wyoming. She went to Tennessee, where she visited Dollywood and Elvis' home. "I've always loved Elvis; I've said that if he'd met me, he would still be alive today," she said.
Jean enjoys camping and has been a camper since 1970.
"I enjoy camping with my sister and brother-in-law in their camper," she said. "We came up to a friend's reunion at Paul Smith's College, and got to know the area. After my daughter Gloria moved here in 2002, we've been camping at Buck Pond every August.
"In the spring of 2010, Gloria was ill and in the hospital here in Saranac Lake. I came up to be with her and help her out after she came home. I was going to leave in August; that's when we come up to camp each year. But then I decided to stay, and I never looked back. I love it up here. It's beautiful, and everyone is so doggone friendly up here. I've made so many friends. In June I had a surprise 80th birthday party - so many people came."
Jean joined the Saranac Lake Adult Center.
"The Adult Center has a big impact - I wish more would come for lunch and activities," she said. "Where can you get a good lunch for two bucks?"
She enjoys playing Bingo there and at the Elks Club. She also helps with Adult Center mailings.
She volunteers other places, too. Recently, she helped with the lineup for Ampersound when Mark moved his music store. She has volunteered at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, helping with Habitat Awareness Day. This past summer, she helped the Adirondack Carousel by selling paver stones outside of Ace Hardware. She's involved with the Adirondack Green Circle; she has manned the coffee booth at the farmers' markets and helped with the Green Circle dinner prep at Mount Pisgah.
"I enjoyed the 90-Miler the most," she said. "It's a three-day event and has a big impact. People come off the boats, get food; they're nice and appreciative. The Green Circle manned the recycling efforts, sorting the recyclables. I also liked marching in the Winter Carnival parade with the Green Circle.
"There's lots to do here. I never get bored. I love kayaking in warm weather. My Jeep gets me where I need to go - even with the snow. I read a lot. I enjoy romance novels and have been reading books about the Adirondacks, like 'Adirondack Ice: a Cultural and Natural History' by Caper Tissot and 'Saranac: America's Magic Mountain' by Robert Taylor."
Jean has also enjoyed trips with Will Rogers.
"This summer, we went to Marcy Dam for tubing, it was so much fun," she said. "It was not something I would have thought of doing on my own. We also visited John Dillon Park. Even though I'm not a hiker, we did about a mile hike. There were 14 Paul Smith's College kids with us; they told us many things about nature. They have a lot of lean-tos for camping and even help you take things from your car to the lean-to on golf carts.
"Saranac Lake is magnificent. I love everything about up here: the restaurants, the Community Store and all the other downtown stores. The rock shop is my favorite. It's nice and quiet here, and we have great neighbors. Between Gloria and the Adult Center, I do great. I've had a good life. I have no complaints. Family is important. I had great parents, sisters and brothers. I'm proud of my kids, grandkids and great-grands. We've always been a close family."
Based on an interview with Jean Rogers. Yvona Fast can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com.