Editor’s Note: Life-long Sacred Harp singer and much-loved resident of Ephesus, Georgia, Lonnie Rogers passed away on February 15, 2012 just a few months short of his 96th birthday. His daughter, Karen Rollins, wrote about her father for the June 1988 issue of the National Sacred Harp Newsletter. To honor the memory of Mr. Lonnie we are reprinting this Newsletter article, and have asked Karen Rollins to write a new reflection on her father, which is posted below.
Lonnie Lee Rogers was one of fourteen children born to George Franklin “Frank” Rogers and Tessie Word Rogers. He was born on May 3, 1916, and he has spent most of his life in the community of Ephesus in Heard County, Georgia. Lonnie was introduced to Sacred Harp at an early age, for he was born into a singing family. Singing has been a very important part of his life. He met his wife, Vivian Denney, at a Sacred Harp singing, and their love of singing and singers carries them to singings throughout the year.
Lonnie is still active in building and selling lumber; he was recently named Agri-business leader of the year. He is also active in his community, for he has a strong sense that serving God includes serving our fellow man. He has long been a member of the Lions Club and Farm Bureau; he is a past-president of both groups. For twenty-two years, he has served as the first and only mayor of Ephesus. He also acts as Chairman of the Heard County Board of Education, for he is vitally interested in making the world a better place for our youth.
Lonnie and Vivian have five children: Karen Rollins, Karleen Williams, Paige Harrod, Sherry Lovvorn, and Denney Rogers. Both stay busy working, enjoying their grandchildren, furthering the cause of Sacred Harp, traveling and attending meetings. Lonnie is known for his willingness to lend a helping hand; his friendly manner; his belief in the preservation of our heritage; his love of God, family, America, Sacred Harp, and mankind; and his penchant for telling funny (?) jokes.
A Reflection, Fourteen Years On:
When I wrote the blurb about dad for the newsletter in 1988, I thought, paradoxically, that he was an “old man” and that he would always be with us. I have a different perspective since his recent death.
Dad was born in the small community of Ephesus as the seventh of 14 children. He worked hard and helped his parents survive the Depression. He never went to college, and he did not amass much money. He spent the last few years of his life as a semi-invalid, confined to his home under the care of his family and sitters. Despite his failing body, his mind stayed clear and his outlook remained positive. Even though most of his contemporaries were gone, he received cards, calls, letters, and visits daily. These warmed his heart, blessed his life, and kept him going. When he did pass on just a few months shy of 96 years, more than a thousand people came to pay their respects at his visitation and funeral.
How did someone who lived all his life in a small community, never moving more than 2 miles from where he was born, make so many friends? Part of the answer lies in the loving community of Sacred Harp. Dad loved to sing and he loved the singers. They, in turn, were unbelievably kind to him. After he was unable to travel to singings, the singers came to sing for him. They drove many miles on numerous occasions to sit around his chair and sing. They stayed in touch, sang for him at singings, and sent cards and letters. They let him know that he was not forgotten. The loving circle of people that forms this community kept him in the loop. As a family, we can not thank you enough for that. Your kindness to him gave him a reason for living and made his days worthwhile.
A man who desires friends must show himself friendly. Being friendly came easy for Dad. He loved all people, especially old people and poor people. He felt that his mission on earth was to serve God by serving and helping his fellow man. In his early thirties, dad had to spend 16 months of his life on bed rest at a tuberculosis hospital. He made decisions there that shaped the rest of his life. He was thankful to God for restoring his health so that he could return to his young family. He praised God by singing and he served God by serving others. Doing so blessed his life.
Several years ago, dad was asked in an interview to use one word to describe himself. He thought for a while, and then answered “happy.” That never changed. He was a happy person throughout his long life.