Bernadette Rogers, 83, aide, secretary and homemaker

September 25, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Bernadette Virginia Rogers, a school secretary and homemaker, died of Alzheimer's disease Wednesday at Brighton Gardens in Towson. She was 83.

Bernadette Arndt was born in Baltimore and grew up near Reisterstown Road. She worked at her family's stall at the Cross Street Market on the weekends during the Depression.

In 1940, she graduated from Forest Park High School and went to work as a telephone operator. Three years later she married Wyman Merle Rogers, who also worked for the telephone company.

The couple settled in Woodlawn, where Mrs. Rogers became active in a neighborhood group of homemakers and sharpened her sewing, cooking and gardening skills. For a time, Mrs. Rogers was president of the group. She developed friendships that lasted even after her family moved to Sykesville in the late 1960s, to Phoenix in 1979 and to Shrewsbury, Pa. in 1999.

Throughout her moves, Mrs. Rogers also continued her monthly meetings with a group of seven high school friends called The Hens, who traded stories and homemaking tips.

Mrs. Rogers began a two-decade career as a secretary and teacher's aide at Pinewood Elementary in 1965.

In the 1970s, while working at Randallstown Elementary, a brief item in The Evening Sun dubbed Mrs. Rogers a "Hard-Boiled Hero" when she snagged a soft-boiled egg from a first-grader's lunchbox after the child's mother phoned the school, worried that her son could have a mess on his hands.

Mrs. Rogers hard-boiled the egg and returned it to the boy's lunchbox without incident.

"She didn't win any Nobel Prizes, but she was there for anyone who needed her," said her daughter, Carol Zimmerman of Phoenix. "And she was there for her mother, for us as kids, and as a grandmother and wife."

Mrs. Rogers sewed men's ties, her daughter's prom dresses and a habit for a family friend who was entering a convent, Mrs. Zimmerman recalled.

In 1986, Mrs. Rogers retired from the school system, where she was in the staff and community relations department at Greenwood, Baltimore County public schools headquarters.

With her husband, she took road trips to Florida, the Grand Canyon and Canada. As a cook, her specialty was bread, and her Christmas trees were known for homemade ornaments that filled nearly all the branches, her daughter said.

Mrs. Rogers was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Glen Arm, where she led the pastoral care committee and chaired the baked goods table for fundraisers.

For the past nine years, she had suffered from Alzheimer's, but her daughter said Mrs. Rogers maintained a positive outlook.

"She was always able to put things in perspective," Mrs. Zimmerman said. "When times got tough she said, `If somebody else can go through this, so can I.'"

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church 101 Church Lane, Cockeysville.

In addition to her daughter and husband, survivors include a son, Ronald Rogers of Landisville, Pa.; two sister, Irene Barker of Timonium and Myrtle Sauter of Westminster; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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