He remembers how his introduction to elected community office began. He received a surprise visit from Jim McNally, Doc Busch and Ervy Nelson.
“I had no idea why they came to see me,” Roger said. They wanted him to run for mayor because the incumbent was not seeking another term.
“I told them I had never even been on the council before. I said ‘put me down for the council,’ but they told me they already had that taken care of,” Roger said. “So that’s how I got into this.”
Roger said he hadn’t planned on running for mayor in November 2016, but it appeared no one was going to run. He decided to be on the ballot, and despite a competing last-minute candidate, Roger won two more years of work.
“It’s a job nobody wants. It don’t pay nothing. You don’t do it for the money,” Roger explained. “Somebody has to do it.”
It’s this kind of commitment, seen repeatedly demonstrated in many local folks, that make a small town strong enough to withstand the forces that bring a community to decay and demise.
When the blizzard of January 16, 1967, suddenly put a busload of children at risk of freezing or death, a great many in Chokio did whatever was needed to support a rescue caravan and provide warm shelter at homes in town.
Roger was among those who helped. He worked for Federated Telephone.
“Federated had trucks with dial telephones in them,” Roger explained. He drove the truck in the rescue caravan and communicated with the Stevens County Sheriff, updating him on the rescue progress.
“The buses did not have two-way radios back then,” Roger said.
Earlier in the day Ruth went to get milk and take Avon products to Nelson’s store. She could not see the garage in town, the visibility was so poor.
“We didn’t get weather warnings then like we do today,” Ruth noted.
Muriel Kolling and two children stayed at the Gerdes home. “They couldn’t get home,” Roger recalls.
Muriel’s husband, Clayton, was the driver of the stranded bus, out walking in the blizzard to find help for the stranded busload of students.
Thanks to Clayton’s success in finding a farm home in the blizzard, he was able to tell rescuers how to find them.
“We knew exactly where the bus was,” Roger said.