The Legacy of a Peale Family Friend

An inspiring life that filled others with courage, faith, focus and goodness

Posted in , May 21, 2015

Leaving A Legacy: Remembering A Member of the Peale Family

“You get the Good Job Award,” Uncle Roger would say. This was always viewed as one of the greatest compliments. Uncle Roger, who led an inspiring life, recognized effort, commitment and accomplishment.

He embodied effort, commitment and accomplishment throughout his life—in his educational settings, in his work, in his civic responsibilities and in his community and family. His standards were high, hence the value we placed on receiving “The Good Job Award” from him.

Uncle Roger—our dear family friend, Roger Smith—passed away on May 11, 2015 after a five-year journey with cancer. Cancer never defined him, even as his body let go.

He was smartly dressed until the very end, in a button-down shirt, trousers, and V-neck sweater, his blue eyes shining, his white hair combed perfectly. He welcomed visitors to sit and talk with him, despite his compromised respiratory status, his pain, his physical uncertainty and his fading ability to speak.

He worked on a historical project for our community until that collaboration was no longer possible for him. The way he lived with cancer was the definition of effort, of commitment and of courage. As Father Timothy M. Gallagher wrote, “Courage is born where God’s grace and human effort intersect.” Uncle Roger knew how this intersection worked.

I grew up 300 yards down the road from Uncle Roger and his family. His three children matched up age-wise with my siblings and me. He drove us to school in the mornings. He coached local soccer. He was a leader in our church. He golfed with great skill and success. He was an impactful and influential business leader in our community. He served on multiple boards. He was a generous supporter of Guideposts.

Our families spent Christmas Eve together. My parents traveled with Uncle Roger and his wife, Betty. Our lives were intertwined in wonderful and valuable ways. Our connection with the Smith family will continue always, with Roger’s courageous and encouraging spirit very much present.

Life still seems a bit surreal since Uncle Roger died. As his daughter wrote to me, “I feel that he is still here, like he’s just on a trip or something. I created most of the slide show today and spent hours cropping pictures of this handsome, happy, healthy-looking guy. It wasn’t so hard to release the sick, suffering body, but letting go of what he was is a very different story.”

So many of us can relate to these thoughts. How can it be that a person is gone when we have known him as so alive? How can his vibrant, active, committed presence no longer be a reality?


The disbelief remains for a while, for sure. The beauty lies in the impact the individual has had on us, on his or her family, on a community. This impact, filled with courage and focus and goodness and life, can help to propel us forward, guiding us, comforting us, reframing us, realigning us as we navigate our lives.

Uncle Roger is on a trip, a trip we here on earth do not yet understand—a glorious trip, we can only hope and believe it to be. He has left us with a great deal to work with, leaving a legacy exemplified by his commitment to the life he led, by the effort he put into it, by all that he accomplished and by the courage he showed, in spades, along the way. Good Job, Uncle Roger.

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