Manchester man will fall again for the love of his life

New Hampshire Sunday News
August 24. 2017 10:34PM
Bill Rogers holds the sign he will carry before he jumps from an airplane this Sunday, at his Manchester home on Wednesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

Bill and Natalie Rogers in their wedding photo Oct. 3, 1953. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

Bill Rogers was 14 years old when he saw the girl who would become his wife.

“We met at a football game,” the 83-year-old Manchester man said. “I looked over at her, and I kept looking at her. I just couldn’t take my eyes off her.”

“I followed her out and introduced myself and asked if I could walk her home. She said yes.”

It was love at first sight, Rogers said. “We both knew right then that it was going to be forever,” he said.

Bill and Natalie Rogers had 69 years, two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren together. She died on March 27, with her husband by her side.

On Sunday, Rogers plans to honor his wife by doing something of which she likely would disapprove: Sky-diving.

He’s set for a tandem jump with an instructor at Skydive Pepperell, just over the Masschusetts border. And a growing crowd of family members, friends and supporters plans to be there.

Why sky-diving? He expects his feat will attract some attention, so he can let everyone know how special his wife was. “Everywhere she went, people loved her, and I just wanted to do something in her memory to keep her memory alive.”

“I was a lucky guy,” he said. “Blessed.”

Still, he admitted, “I don’t know how she’d feel about me skydiving.”

His daughter, Bonnie Brown, did try to talk him out of it. But, Rogers said, “I made her understand what it’s all about.”

After Rogers was graduated from Manchester High School Central in 1949 (Natalie went to St. Joseph’s), he served in Korea as a Navy corpsman attached to a Marine unit. “I was only 17,” he said. “And I grew up quick.”

Natalie wrote to him every day. He recently found some of those letters in his wife’s Bible; she’d kept them all these years. “I read them every night,” he said.

After Bill got home from the war, he and Natalie were married within a year, on Oct. 3, 1953.

Rogers went to work as an ironworker for 30 years, building bridges and buildings, while his wife raised the kids and kept their home. They bought a place on Lake Winnipesaukee.

“We were the best of friends,” he said. “We didn’t need a crowd with us. We did things together and we enjoyed that.

“We had quite a love story.”

Rogers retired for a while, but returned to work as a supervisor at the Manchester Transit Authority. He’s still working at Easterseals New Hampshire; it helps him go on now, without the woman he calls “my strength.”

“She was an amazing lady. Just full of love,” he said. “Every time you saw her, she was smiling. She set the foundation of love in our family, and it shows in our family.”

The plan Sunday is for him to arrive at 9 a.m., and spend a couple of hours preparing for the jump. An instructor will be strapped to him to handle all the technical stuff.

He’ll be thinking about Natalie.

“I just hope he doesn’t unstrap me,” he said. “Then I’ll be with her quick.”

NH PeopleManchester

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