Heaven’s sports teams cheered the arrival of Roger Newman to their ranks on the morning of September 25, 2022. An athlete of note for the vast majority of his life, his loved ones are quite sure he pole-vaulted his way over the pearly gates, nailed the landing, and is already on the tennis court running drills for anyone with an interest in the game.
Born in Wisconsin 87 years ago, Roger, his parents Howard and Hazel, and younger sister Margaret moved to Allegan, Michigan when he was fifteen. Howard bought Skogmo’s Department Store in nearby Otsego shortly thereafter, modeling a career in retail that Roger would later emulate. Roger’s lifelong love of sports solidified at Allegan High School, where he lettered in four sports, and eventually was inducted to the Allegan Athletics Hall of Fame. Roger earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, playing basketball for the Broncos and for a short time leading the nation with his stellar free throw percentage. He served his country by enlisting in the Army and loved to tell people about another recruit with whom he shared a long ship journey to Germany, Elvis Presley.
Upon his return stateside, Roger began a career in teaching, first in Otsego, then Portage Public Schools. One fateful day at Otsego High School a student teacher named Georgia Sheldon caught his eye and he never looked away. They were married in 1965, the same year he received his Master’s Degree in Counseling from WMU. A few years later they welcomed their son Marc, followed by their daughter Marcy. Roger was a natural at fatherhood and his interest and involvement in his kids’ lives never waned, whether it was the hours spent on various sports fields with Marc, or chaperoning and driving on school trips and competitions with Marcy.
In 1976 Roger surprised Georgia by expressing his interest in buying his parents’ store building and continuing to run a department store there. As a team they founded Newman’s Department Store which was a vibrant business they would run together for the next 15 years and later transition to the Otsego Antiques Mall. Roger was a fixture downtown and in the community at large, active in the Chamber of Commerce, an elected member of the Otsego City Commission, an engaged participant in the Kalamazoo River cleanup planning, and a tennis coach at Otsego High School.
Roger always loved to travel and enjoyed planning routes that wouldn’t take him the same way twice. Many family vacations were embarked upon with Rog behind the wheel of a motor home. He had a passion for waterways, and had a dream of paddling from Vicksburg, Michigan to Vicksburg, Mississippi. The dream was never realized, but the planning brought him much pleasure. Roger also traveled to compete in various Senior Olympics competitions both at the state and national level. Into his seventies he could be found bringing home gold and other medals in the high jump, long jump, pole vault and tennis. A crowning achievement was his bronze medal win in the high jump at the National Senior Olympics in Tucson, Arizona.
He leaves behind a family forever grateful for his world class decency, his smile, and his absolute, multi-faceted and unconditional love and support. He is survived by his wife of 57 years Georgia, his kids Marc and Marcy, their spouses Panrada and Pete, grandkids Nico and Ruby, his sister Margaret and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Cremation has taken place and no services are scheduled at this time.
Messages of condolence may be posted at www.WinkelFuneralHome.com.