May 16, 1927 - November 24, 2019
Donald W. Rogert 5/16/1927 – 11/24/2019 Beloved husband of the late Lois Rogert, father of the late Rodney Rogert, son of the late Polly (Rudy) Rogert and Alec Kerns. Don is survived by his children: Mike (Carol) Rogert; Lori (Mike) Dyas, and Lisa (Greg) Kibbie; his grandchildren: Sandy Wlacshin (Allan), Dan Rogert (Nichole), Susan Rogert, Shane Rogert (Anna), Casey Rogert (Bre), Mick Dyas (Brooke), Melissa Johnson, Travis Johnson (Julie), Kyle Johnson (Regina) and Carlee Lockner (Justin); his great grandchildren; his sisters Mary Cabela, Rita Burnett, Virginia Helms and his brother Jim Kerns; nieces and nephews, and his many, many friends. Don loved to tell stories of his past and his family’s history. To honor Don and the wonderful life he lived, the family would like to share some of our favorite stories that form some of the many reasons we loved him. The Birth of a Legend Don’s grandfather and grandmother, Ira and Sara Isabel Reddinton, were homesteaders in Oklahoma in the early days. Family lore has it that Ira was a keen hunter and the hunting in Oklahoma wasn’t very good, so he uprooted Sara Isabel and joined a wagon train headed north east. That hearty group of pioneers were led to Nebraska by none other than Buffalo Bill Cody. Ira and Sara Isabel settled in Mullen, Nebraska. After Ira’s death, Grandma Isabel, as she was known to all, stayed in Mullen with her daughter Polly. Isabel loved to tell a story of life in those days. She said that she’d bake bread, most often 5 loaves. Men from the local Indian tribe would enter her house and take all but one loaf. All done in silence. Later on in the day, they’d hear a whump on the door. They’d open it up and find a deer lying there, left by the Indians as payment for the bread. She said that they never had any issues with the tribe. Always traded and respected each other. One day, she saw them head out and later found that they’d traveled to Little Big Horn. Polly met and married a handsome young cowboy, Alec Kerns. From their union, we were blessed with Don. Sadly, Alec wasn’t the staying kind and early on in Don’s life, Alec disappeared and they divorced. Polly was a school teacher and raised Don on her own. Polly had her hands full with him. Don believed in running the town of Mullen naked as a little boy. Her toughest task then was keeping him in clothes. Polly and Don moved east towards Omaha and she married her beau, Rudy Rogert. Rudy adopted Don and raised him as his son and so he became Don Rogert. During the height of the depression, Rudy, Polly and young Don were homeless and they lived by the famed grain bins off the interstate. There are so many stories about that time. One that sticks out is Don had a pet chicken. One day he couldn’t find his chicken, but oh did they have a nice meal that night. Once they moved to Benson, Don made many friends, Bobby Miles being his closest. They were typical boys getting into typical boy trouble. Don would tell about the time Polly left a note for him after school “Don’t go to Bobby’s” When she got home she found a note that said “Gone to Bobby’s” written on the same piece of paper. When she would go to punish him with a leather belt they kept handy, he would hide under the bed and hold onto the spring so when she moved the bed, he went with it. We all understand the “burdens” Polly had while raising a head strong Don. The Early Years Don’s mother Polly, as we noted earlier, was a school teacher. Much to her chagrin, Don wasn’t much for school. Not that he wasn’t a smart fellow, just lacked interest in formal education. Don dropped out after the 9th grade. He claimed it was because the principal said “this school isn’t big enough for both of us”. Around this time, he met Lois Shaver, a lovely lady a year his senior. At just 17, Don and Lois snuck over to Council Bluffs to get married. He joked that he packed up his jacks and model airplanes and got married. Don adored his lovely Lois. He used to send her flowers regularly and without fail. He often said that Lois was his perfect partner. She took care of the house and children and he didn’t question that. He worked and did business and she didn’t question that either. He said that she told him as long as he provided a home for the family, food on the table and it was legal, she didn’t care what he chose to do. Soon after Don and Lois married, World War II came calling. Don went into the Army and was stationed in the Philippines. Don told a story about being stationed there. He was in charge of a group of Japanese POW’s. Now Don had won, in a poker came with a group of officers, a 1942 Harley 45. Looking for something for the POW’s to do, Don set them about the task of painting his Harley. The problem was, he only had canary yellow paint, so he wound up with a canary yellow Harley. For those who know Don, in later years, he bought an identical ’42 Harley 45. When his good friend CL Werner had it restored as a gift to Don, it’s painted that same canary yellow. That Harley is a Rogert family treasure, currently entrusted to Mike, it will go to the next generation and so on and so on. Don returned to the states and his beloved Lois and the children came. First Rod, who looked so much like his dad. Next came Mike, who favored Lois. Then came Lori, favoring dad as well. Finally, Lisa who, like Mike, favored Lois. During this time, Don and Lois moved from Avery to Hansen’s Lake, LaPlatte and finally to Valley, Nebraska. Don held a variety of jobs, becoming a mechanic for the man who would become his mentor, HP Smith. He told the story that he was offered a job by a rival dealership as a salesman. So he went into HP’s office to quit, telling him that he had received an offer to be a salesman. HP told him Don, get a suit and show up tomorrow, you’re being promoted to salesman. And so he stayed. The Golden Years In 1964, Don had the opportunity to buy a sand and gravel business. He said that, at the time, he had 600 dollars in the bank. He went to HP, still his boss, and asked him what he thought. HP encouraged Don to go for it. Don then became the owner of Hartford Sand and Gravel. At the time, everyone in that business was using drag lines. Don had seen and become convinced that conveyor belts were the way to go, so he installed one and found that it moved product much faster and much more efficiently. Business started booming. HP stopped by one day to see how his protégé was doing. Don explained to him that he had more business than he could handle. The problem he was having is that he just didn’t have enough trucks. HP took the phone and called his dealership. He told the salesman to get all the gravel trucks they had in inventory ready and get them out to Don. Don told HP that there was no way he had enough money to pay for them. HP just said you will and left it at that. Hartford went on to be the largest sand and gravel company in Nebraska. Don designed many pieces of equipment that are used to this day in the sand and gravel business. Don eventually sold Hartford to Lyman Richie. As a part of that sale, he had a 5 year non-compete clause. At the end of that 5 years, Don opened and ran Mallard Sand and Gravel on a farm he owned south of Valley. He, in the end, sold that business to Old Castle, but they retained his consulting services until his passing. At the same time as he bought Hartford, Don moved the family again. There was a ramshackle old farmhouse on the same property as the gravel pit. Much to Lois’ dismay, he moved the family into it. There were cows at the window to scare Lois and the boys woke the first morning to a snow drift between their beds, but he promised her that within a year, he’d build her a fine home. Good to his word, within a year they moved into the first “big house”, bought and paid for by that gravel business. Ever the efficient one, Don decided that commercial flying was not for him. Too restrictive. So he went to Eppley airfield and took lessons and so became his own pilot. He built an airstrip right by his house in Valley. He had many planes over the years and fond memories of them all. His son Mike caught the flying bug and became a pilot as well. He was copilot to Don’s pilot, Bob Harvey, and flew Don, Lois or whomever they asked all over the country. Don loved to fish and hunt. His children and grandchildren have many fond memories of fishing at his camp up in Canada. Don loved participating in all manner of hunting and shooting competitions. He’s won the “Nebraska One Box” hunt and Grand National Quail hunt in Enid, Oklahoma. They had, by all accounts, a wonderful life. His children all love the outdoors still. He indulged all his children with ponies, motorbikes, boats and such. There is a story of one particular pony that kept getting loose. It was a typical Nebraska thunderstorming night. That blasted pony got loose again. Don went out in the storm to get it. It kicked Don. He kicked it back. When he couldn’t get it back in the fence, he reached down, picked it up and threw it over the fence. Don and Lois enjoyed the bounty of their labor. Don, ever the adrenaline junky, raced cars at the local track. His favorite car being a 1940 Ford coupe, the Donald Duck. That fun stopped when Lois pronounced that it was too frightening and he stopped. He then picked up the guitar and taught himself to play. He formed a band, The Desperados, who performed all over the Midwest. They opened for acts such as Sawyer Brown and England Dan and John Ford Coley. Don told wonderful stories of the people he met. He was talking one day about a “nice young man” that they’d flown somewhere. That “nice young man” was Randy Travis. Don rubbed elbows with celebrities, politicians and captains of industry. He considered them all friends. Don decided in the mid-70’s that it had been enough years since he and his bio father Alec had seen each other. Don traveled to Valentine NE and talked to Alec’s family and they directed him to an apartment over a bar in Billings, MT. Don bought Alec his then-wife May a house in Billings and re-established their relationship. When May died, he moved Alec into a retirement home in Red Lodge MT. Apparently, Alec wasn’t meant for that life. Don soon moved Alec back to Valley, installing him in the cabin on the family property. Don took care of Alec for the rest of his life. Alec got the opportunity to get re-acquainted with his son, his grandkids and even his great grandkids. Don just did the next right thing. The Later Years Don and Lois had many epic adventures. There is one solid fact: If you were a male Rogert and you needed a job, Dad had a job for you. He wouldn’t hesitate to fire you, but you always had a job. Don loved the art of the deal. You could always count on him have a deal or 3 on the table at any given time. His generosity was legendary in the Valley area. One could always count on Don to help out without notice or fanfare, not seeking personal recognition, but simply to do the right thing. Don served on the board of directors of up to 7 different companies in the greater Omaha area. His advice was sought regularly by different companies seeking to access that encyclopedic knowledge of the sand and gravel industry. Once, when entertaining some senior managers from another company, the men left the meeting looking at each other saying – did you get the idea that we weren’t the smartest person in the room? Don lived for those days. Don’s life was not without sadness. His oldest son Rod passed away in 1992 at age 43. His mom Polly died in 1999 at age 94 and he lost his beloved Lois in 2012 at age 86. Don kept all of these people in his heart and cherished their memories. In his later life, Don relished being surrounded by family. Whether it was his kids, his grandkids, his great grandkids, or any of his friends, there were few days that Don didn’t have company. He loved it all. Offering advice, telling stories and jokes, or just listening, he was the rock that people leaned on. He looked forward to his bi-weekly poker games, even though the players had changed as the originals passed away. His life was vital, important and valued until the day he died. So, friends and family, raise a glass of your favorite libation and toast our father, our grandpa, our friend Don Rogert. We love him, we miss him and we’re certain that heaven is a much more interesting place with him there.
Donald W. Rogert 5/16/1927 – 11/24/2019 Beloved husband of the late Lois Rogert, father of the late Rodney Rogert, son of the late Polly (Rudy) Rogert and Alec Kerns. Don is survived by his children: Mike (Carol) Rogert; Lori (Mike)... View Obituary & Service Information
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Donald W. Rogert 5/16/1927 – 11/24/2019
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