I had the distinct privilege of attending the Wickliffe community Hall of Fame 2014 Induction Ceremony on 9/7/14 at the Normandy Party Center in Wickliffe, joining with others in recognizing the following individuals in the categories following their names:
- Keith R. Bennett (Government)
- K. Michael Benz (The Arts)
- Robert Calic (Sports)
- Leslie Ciancibello (Civic)
- Richard D. DiCicco, Sr. (Heritage)
- John D. Geither (Military)
- Grace Marie McCullough (Religion)
- Herman Rueger (Education)
- Maurice Savitt (Business)
- Helen (Minado) Vespe ( Military)
- American Legion Brewer-Tarasco Post #7 (Organization)
- and my mother, Michele M. Rogers, RN (Medical/Health).
I received the medal awarded to my mother posthumously and made the following remarks:
Michele Marguerite Fitzgerald was born in Akron on Valentine’s Day 1933, and like the central message of the holiday, her life was dedicated to love - that of her family, her friends, and her patients. Mom was the younger of two children; she grew up on the west side of Cleveland, she went to John Marshall High School and then on to graduate from St. Vincent Charity Hospital School of Nursing in 1954, as class president.
During her career as a registered nurse, she worked at St. Vincent Charity Hospital, Wade Park Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Booth Memorial Hospital, DePaul Home for unwed mothers and St. Ann’s Hospital.
In 1956, she married Ronald Keith Rogers and together they quickly began raising a family. Our family moved to Wickliffe in 1976 where mom along with dad and their nine children, all but one of whom are here today, Jim is serving overseas, participated in many activities, playing various sports, swimming at Orlando Park, watching the annual fireworks at Coulby Park, attending the Rockefeller Road Review, walking to Jeri’s for ice cream and attending Mass at our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
In 1974, with a strong desire to provide a broader spectrum of accessible, quality and continuous healthcare to women and their families she co-founded BirthCare. Shortly thereafter, Birthcare became Womankind Maternal and Prenatal Care Center. Her life as a nurse filled our mother with deep purpose - as a caregiver and as an advocate for pregnant women and their babies. Not only did Womankind provide free prenatal care and delivery services for pregnant women, it also treated women with many other medical needs.
During the thirty-five years Mom served there, she and dad opened our own home to women who had nowhere to turn and no place to live. It was common for us, as kids, to come home and find strangers, who would share our bedrooms or relegate one of us to sleeping on the couch.
Womankind, which will celebrate its fortieth year of service in 2015, continues to provide medical care and support to approximately 1500 women each year and averages 400 child births annually.
In her work at Womankind, Mom’s colleagues described her as having taught them patience, compassion, and listening skills. With a vision of untiring love of others and welcoming hospitality, she is remembered as treating each person who walked through the clinics doors with open arms and kindness.
Mom respected her clients, relating that they were, “some of the strongest women she knew.” A co-worker expressed that she, “Treasured her children, my children, your children and the waiting room children. Michele consistently challenged each of those she worked with to love without limit; especially the most difficult of clients whom she recognized were often the individuals needing it most.” At home, it was no different.
Our mother had a great sense of humor, a wild sense of adventure and a delightful sense of mischief. The theater and acting were two of her great loves and Mom was larger than life even without a stage. She created. She made things happen and fostered an environment where everyone could be their best.
As a young nurse, her advocacy and concern for her fellow nurses and the nursing profession led her to help organize the nurse’s union at St. Vincent Charity Hospital. In 1980, because of her work related to prenatal and infant care, the March of Dimes recognized mom as Ohio’s Nurse of the Year.
Mom found her deepest enjoyment in the hours she spent with all of us - my brothers, my sisters, our families, her sister Joan and all of her nieces and nephews. Last year, on April 25, she died at home, surrounded by her family - all of whom she so loved.
If she had been able to be here with us today, she would have humbly said, “you shouldn’t have.” She would have been honored by this recognition while enjoying your company, she would remind us to trust in God and she would have asked that we always help those less fortunate.
Mom respected life. She treasured life. And she fully lived hers!