'I knew she was with me,' widower says of skydive in honor of his love

By DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader
August 27. 2017 8:32PM
Bill Rogers of Manchester, 83, prepares for his first skydive Sunday with Skydive Pepperell instructor Keith Murray in Pepperell, Mass. The jump was in honor of his wife, Natalie Rogers, who died in March. (COURTESY OF SKYDIVE PEPPERELL)

A Manchester man who honored the memory of his wife Sunday by skydiving for the first time said he felt her presence as he catapulted through the air.

“I knew she was with me. We did a good job,” said Bill Rogers, 83, of his bride of almost 64 years, Natalie, as he celebrated with family at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester

Rogers said he could sense Natalie was with him from the time he boarded the plane in Pepperell, Mass., until he touched down safely on the ground. About two dozen family members, friends and Easterseals New Hampshire coworkers were there to greet him.

Natalie died with Bill by her side at Catholic Medical Center in March, almost 69 years after the two met during a football game at Gill Stadium.

“I’m very proud of him that he actually did it,” grandson Gene Brown said Sunday. “At his age, to get out there and have the courage to do the jump, it was pretty amazing. He really wanted to do something bold that kind of showed everyone just what type of person she was and what she meant to our family. It was just his way of doing it. It was a really special way to remember my grandmother and keep her memory alive.”

Rogers said he and Natalie were having dinner with Brown last year when he told them about his experience doing a tandem jump at Skydive Pepperell. When Rogers said he was interested, Natalie was not in favor.

“Her answer was ‘Oh, no way. He’s not going to do it,’” Bill Rogers said.

But after a couple of hours of training on Sunday, Rogers was ready and gave a thumbs-up to all before boarding the plane with Skydive Pepperell instructor Keith Murray. He hurtled through the sky strapped to Murray in a tandem jump, then slowly drifted down after the parachute opened.

Rogers said he was just 14 and a student at Manchester High School Central when he met Natalie Moquin, a student at St. Joseph’s High School, during a football game in the fall of 1947.

They married Oct. 3, 1953, after Rogers served with the Navy in Korea. The couple had two children, followed by four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Rogers said Natalie had been at CMC for about a week before a stroke took her on March 27. He said he kissed her one last time and held her hand through the end.

“She squeezed my hand so I knew she understood,” he said. “I said ‘Nat, we’re holding hands today just like we did 69 years ago.’”

dalden@unionleader.com


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