George Rogers has led a busy life. And at age 78, he shows no signs of slowing down. George still oversees the farming of his 320 acres on Hathaway Road (now farmed by Kerry & Lenny Shank) and spends each Tuesday morning at Farmers & Merchants Bank where he scrutinizes loan applications and makes recommendations. George has been actively involved with the bank for 30 years and now serves as chairman of the board of directors.
He is also looking forward to opening his beloved summer home on Lake Wawasee which he and wife, Daphne (deceased since September 1990) purchased in 1978.
George was born in Wellington, Illinois (about 90 miles south of Chicago) and graduated from high school there. He spent a year at Illinois State University until his brother, A.W. Umberger, bought a 340 acre farm south of LaOtto and asked George to help farm it. George dropped out of college, invested in the farm and worked it for the next 7 years.
A blind date, arranged at the last moment by a friend, was the beginning of the end of George’s bachelor days. “You can kick me tomorrow,” his friend laughed, as he urged George to complete a foursome which included the friend’s date’s sister, Daphne Appleman. Later that evening, the friend anxiously questioned George if he was upset. George laughed. “I’ve got another date with her tomorrow night”, he said. “And from then on, that was it”, adds George.
He and Daphne were married in 1940. George has two daughters, Peggy (Mrs. Richard Laesch), who lives on Crawford Road; and Barbara (Mrs. Randy Bellinger) who lives in Pella, Iowa. Peggy, who is bedfast with multiple sclerosis, and Richard, have two children, Jonathan (serving with the U.S. Marines in Okinawa) and Gina. Barbara and Randy have a daughter, Beth, and a son, Bryan.
In 1945 George purchased 160 acres on Hathaway Road. Three years later, he bought another 160 acres which lies south and directly across the road. He and Daphne lived in the smaller of the two homes on the original property while tenants occupied the larger house. In the late 1960’s, he undertook the remodeling and modernization of the bigger house, and in 1970, he and Daphne moved in. Kerry and Colleen Shank currently live next door.
Besides farming, George has utilized his acreage for other ventures. Specialty courses at Purdue University and Michigan State taught him about growing sod, and 8 years, he sold sod to local landscaping companies. “It was awfully hard work,” he recalls. “You didn’t have a minute to yourself.” He also produced carrots for the Campbell Soup Company and broccoli for Birdseye.
In 1963, as captain of the Fort Wayne Shrine Horse Patrol, George arranged for the rail transportation of the group’s 32 Palominos to Pasadena, California, where they and their riders pranced in the Rose Bowl Parade. He was a member of the Patrol for 14 years.
George has not only traveled the United States, he’s been around the world. “I spent 2 weeks in Russia and 2 weeks in China,” he says. In May, 1985, as one of a group representing the Indiana Bank & Finance Committee, George went abroad to study economic conditions in these countries. Some free time gave him the opportunity to do some sightseeing – one day was spent walking the Great Wall of China and another day touring the Russian southern province of Georgia. He also would like to travel down under. “I want to go to Australia,” he says, adding that he would like to experience the outback country.
Pet peeves bring a chuckle from George. “Credit cards and divorces,” he laughs, when asked what drives him up the wall. He then relates an incident that happened several years ago. A young man came into the bank to request a loan. Newly married and stable, he seemed a good risk. As the interview was concluding, George popped one last question: “By the way, how’s your love life?” The young man assured George that things couldn’t be better. The loan was granted, and shortly after, the wife filed for divorce. George laughs and shakes his head. So much for “safe” loans.
How would he like to be remembered? “Just as it has been,” George replies. “I don’t have any enemies . . . that’s good enough.”