"We all — in the end — die in the middle of a story. Of many stories." - Mona Simpson, from her eulogy of her brother Steve Jobs
Roger was born on April 5, 1961 here in Loveland at the “old” hospital that was just 2 blocks around the corner from where Art and Sarah and Roger’s 2 brothers and 2 sisters lived. Roger lived in Loveland through the 12th grade, where he was known as “Little Cush,” since he was always following an older Cushing sibling. After graduating from Campion Academy, Roger took a year off to follow his first passion: skiing. He bummed around the slopes for a year before packing up for a year at Union College in Lincoln, NE. He then received an associate’s degree in computer science from Aims College in Greeley. Roger moved to Boulder where he eventually got into the computer industry. He was very industrious and invested wisely– he was a landlord with several properties in the north Denver area. Roger was married to his long-time best friend, Mary Ann Fernandez, just this last July. Roger died in a tragic accident October 29, 2011.
But that is not the story of Roger. There is so much more to tell about our Brother, our Husband, our Son, our Uncle. We want you to get a glimpse of how special and good and kind-hearted this man was. He was loved by his wife; he was adored his nieces and nephews; he was sought-after by his friends and family; he was respected by his colleagues… He is mourned and missed by all of us.
Those of you who knew Roger, know two things about him: first that he tended to be late……………….. and second that he likes to tell a good story. Or, more correctly, he likes to tell a LONG story.
If you knew Roj, then you knew that an agreed-upon arrival time was more of a conceptual thing than it was an actual point in space and time. Yet, Roger was NOT a procrastinator – he was the opposite, he did everything NOW. He wasn’t late because he slept too long. He was late because he had to make one more call; send one more email; read one more article; clip one more coupon. He wanted to experience it all. See more, do more, be more. He soaked up life like a sponge and enjoyed it all. And, he always wanted to share that life with others…
Roger loved to tell a story, and he often carried his own visual aids to emphasize whatever point he was making at that time. Armed with his manila folder full of clippings and notes, cartoons, coupons and articles, he would start in on his spiel almost before you had a chance to say hello. He always believed that his enthusiasm for a topic was so inarguably infectious that he could CONVINCE you to be a willing participant in whatever newest process or gadget he was telling you about.
There are a lot of stories that were relayed around the family circle this week. …the time Stan and Ron thought it would be fun to put the air compressor gun in Roger’s mouth and watch his cheeks puff out. Not realizing that his nose was full from having the measles, they were the ones who got the surprise when his sinuses ended up splattered over their hands. …the time Roger lit an open gas can on fire, lucky that the can was full so it didn’t explode. …the time that Dad was washing his motorcycle and set down the hose, only to turn around to find it in Roger’s hands, hosing down his tricycle – just like Dad.
Roger loved a silly story – from Dilbert to Ren & Stimpy, Dr. Seuss to Monty Python. (“What’s on the Telly?” “Looks like a penguin to me!”) Roger laughed at the little things and believed so much in the power of a positive attitude and his god-given right to have fun that he would often exhort us with, “Everybody Laugh! Ha-HAaaa!” He loved a good joke, and a bad joke was often even better! He loved to make horse grins and lizard necks. Every day with Roger was fun!
His free-wheeling antics endeared him to the kids, but sometimes grated on the old fuddy-duddies. One year at the Cushing Christmas Gift Exchange, in a house particularly full of kids and chaos, Roger gave every kid a Screaming Monkey. This obnoxious fur-ball emitted a hideous scream when you stretched back his elastic arms and launched him across the room, driving most of the adults out into the cold for some peace and quiet, and driving the kids into a hilarious frenzy.
When she was young, Lisa liked to line up all her dolls in chairs with Roger in the middle and play school – her, the teacher; Roger, the student. She worked tirelessly with Roger to improve his penmanship. Her lack of success in this area may be one of the reasons that Roger went into computer science – he figured typing was a better way to be understood.
Roger, on the other hand, was a great teacher. He LOVED to be the tutor. He was especially good at teaching skiing and snowboarding, patiently stressing the salient points and giving positive reinforcement all the way. He had a knack for pointing out the perfect skiing tip for each person that would turn their day around, dramatically improving their performance and enhancing their enjoyment of the day. He never made anyone feel criticized, just encouraged.
He taught several of us how to ski and several more how to ski better. He was patient and rarely made fun of our lack of skiing skills except to shout out, “Yard Sale!” if you had the misfortune to fall where he could see you; and you had to be careful to not sit on the slope waiting for him to catch up unless you want to be buried by a Roger-lanche.
He sky-dived high above the earth, and scuba-dived below the sea. He snow skied in the winter and jet-skied in the summer. He was fun-loving and adventure-seeking. But he never wanted to go alone. He always wanted to make you want to come too, and sometimes didn’t understand why you weren’t as excited about it as he was.
Roger would talk your ear off when he had a story to tell. He was the king of sidebars, related stories and “too much information.” But he really did know everything. He professed to not read books, but his knowledge was deep and wide. He would argue his point until you would either agree with him… or just give up and go along with him. Yet somehow, he neglected to tell any of us the story of saving Daniella’s life. We never knew the story of how he took in a run-away fellow student. We didn’t know how he gave a tenant a second chance. He went around his noble business quietly, never looking for a pat on the back. He did what he did because he was a good man who did the right thing. Now those stories are coming out and we’re so proud of him.
Roger loved the mountains, hiking 14’ers in the summer and skiing the trees, knee-deep in powder, in the winter. We stayed close together when hiking, but he would often disappear into the trees as we skied the tamer slopes. We’d stop to rest and wonder where Roger was when we’d hear his familiar, “Koo-Whee!” and see him waiting for us just down the hill at the edge of the trees – grinning from ear-to-ear and usually covered with powder.
Roger’s first passion became his life’s passion and grew into 2 loves on the slopes: One love was racing – man, could he fly! The other love was Mary Ann – he LOVED skiing with her and was so excited about how good she was getting last year. It was hard to get together with Roger on the weekends. In fair weather, he was fixing something at the apartments or helping somebody move. In winter, he skied. We’ll never go skiing again without seeing Roger schussing by in our memories – perfect form, graceful turns; the wind literally singing as it vibrates through his racing poles.
Roger and Mary Ann loved skiing together so much that they wrote their marriage vows in “powder talk.” They were married in a storybook wedding just three months ago. He was the perfect Prince Charming in white tie and tails. So proud, so happy, SO in love. He was absolutely smitten by Mary Ann. She was truly his soul mate and we’ve never seen him happier than these last few months. His nieces told me this week how excited he was to call each of them and personally tell them the whole story of his marriage proposal – the mongo ring, the matching cufflinks, the surprise breakfast with Mom & Dad and his brothers. He was so proud that he kept his tuxedo a secret and looked like the king of the world as he walked down the aisle.
His storybook closed shut just as we were enjoying watching the fun and joy that he was obviously experiencing as he and Mary Ann began to share their home together. This probably wasn’t all that easy since Roger is known to push for his own way and come out on top. But throughout deciding which décor stays and which goes, Roger’s love for Mary Ann always came out the winner. Mary Ann would say, “I Love You,” and the emphatic, inevitable reply from Roger was, “I Love You More.”
One of Roger’s tenants told us this week, “He was a really great guy. I have tons of respect for him. We had no credit or history and Roger gave us a chance. He was understanding and would do anything he could to help us. He changed our lives; we owe him a lot!” One of the posts on his Facebook page this week said, “Roger and Mary Ann did more for me than anyone will ever know and when I told him that, he didn’t believe me. What a great and humble man.” We hear more stories like this every day.
This last week, another renter was helping Roger cut down some high-up, storm-damaged tree limbs. Roger was up in the tree – about 20 ft – with his chain saw, cutting off the upper branches so that he could cut the whole tree down. He had told his brother, Ron, earlier that day that he planned to take his stress out on that tree. It was the last of the BIG trees on his rental properties and it was a constant danger to the houses and cars and people, and he was “just done with it.”
Somehow, Roger fell out of that tree. We don’t know exactly how or why. No one saw him fall. All we know is that his story ended “in media res.” His story was cut short, with so many possible endings left untold. But for the last 50 years, his was a story that inspired us, and encouraged us, and made us love and laugh, and finally, made us cry.
We are so sad that there are no more chapters to write, but will keep him alive in our memories; our memories of all the stories he had to tell us.