Peter Rogers

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Service Information
St Joseph Catholic Church
673 Stevens Ave
Portland, ME 04103

FALMOUTH - Peter James Rogers, 98, of Portland, Maine, passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family on Feb. 14, 2019. He was reunited fittingly on Valentine's Day with his beloved wife of 66 years, Mary Kerrins Rogers, who passed away four years earlier.

Peter was a devoted husband and father of 11 children and a retired attorney and businessman. He was a member of the Greatest Generation, embodying its ideals of love of family and country, personal responsibility, humility, frugality and an unwavering work ethic.

The second of five children, Peter was born at home in Portland to Margaret Conley Rogers and George Konstantine Rogers on Jan. 26, 1921. Peter excelled academically and attended St. Patrick School and graduated from Deering High School. He attended St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

One day while a college junior, he went out for a walk and serendipitously ran into a friend who had recently moved to Worcester from Portland. They spoke for several minutes. While he exchanged just a few words with her friend, 16-year old Mary Cavanaugh, he went back to his dorm and told his friends that he had just met the girl that he was going to marry. And, marry they did, seven years and a world war later.

Peter enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1942. He received orders on Christmas Eve to report to Marine boot camp training at Parris Island, South Carolina, on Jan. 1, 1943. After boot camp, he entered officer training at Quantico, Va., completing it in June 1943, receiving a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

He was assigned to the Marine Corps 17th Defense Battalion, attached to the 2nd Marine Division and deployed to the Pacific Theater. As an artillery officer, Peter fought in the battles of Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian. He commanded the Marine detachment on August 5, 1945 that guarded the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber, at North Field, Tinian Island. Within days, he realized that his detachment had guarded the secret loading of the atomic bomb that the Enola Gay dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. The Japanese Empire surrendered nine days later on August 15, 1945, thereby ending World War II.

After his discharge from the Marines in February 1946, Peter worked with his brother, Charlie, in managing the Rogers Baking Company, a successful commercial bakery known for its pies, located in the Libbytown neighborhood of Portland. The bakery was founded by their father, who as a 17-year old ethnic Greek emigrated from Foca, Turkey, to America with little more than the clothes on his back.

Peter entered law school at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., in July 1946. Two years later, he and Mary wed and spent their first year of marriage in Charlottesville while Peter completed law school.

Upon graduation in 1949, Peter and Mary settled in Portland. He opened his law office and built his practice, while she raised their growing family. Peter continued his Marine service as a reservist after World War II and was recalled with the outbreak of the Korean War. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, N.C., as camp legal officer and received an honorable discharge with the rank of captain in April 1951.

Alongside his career as an attorney, Peter founded a company, the Onex Corporation, and started buying real estate, amassing more than 30 multi-unit rental properties in Greater Portland.

In 1960, Peter and Mary bought 45 acres of land in Stroudwater and began building their child-friendly dream home, which Peter helped design. They moved into the California ranch style house two years later. A playground, tennis court and stable were additions to the property, called Camelot Farm. It was featured in a story in the Maine Sunday Telegram and quoted Peter who said, "The biggest crop at Camelot Farm was children." They had nine at the time and were expecting their tenth child.

Peter, Mary and their family enjoyed life at Camelot Farm for more than half a century. The gentleman's farm was also home to many animals over the years, including horses, ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs, notably Irish Wolfhounds, and a parrot named Chico, brought back from a trip to South America in 1968, who is alive and well. Peter tended to the property and could be seen regularly mowing the front lawn on his tractor. Camelot was the last remaining farm and the largest piece of undeveloped property in Portland when it was sold to developers last year.

Peter was a member of the alumni societies of Holy Cross and the University of Virginia and a lifetime member of the Maine Bar Association. Peter, Mary and their children were longtime congregants of St. Patrick Catholic Church, where, as a child, Peter served as an altar boy, holding the record of serving four masses in one day.

Peter and Mary traveled extensively and especially enjoyed their trips to Ireland, Europe and the Mediterranean region. In 1978, they bought a condominium in Hollywood, Fla., and enjoyed winters there surrounded by many Portland friends. Peter was an avid tennis and card player, eventually converting the home's bomb shelter into a poker room. He loved baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals being his favorite team. As a boy he attended a Cardinals' game, his first major league game, on a trip to California with the Andrew's VFW Post Drum & Bugle Corp.

Peter was generous and treated everyone with kindness and respect. He was known for his storytelling and sense of humor and had a great laugh and smile. He also had a serious sweet tooth and shared his love for Tony's jelly donuts and Haven's peanut butter cups with his grandchildren.

Peter is survived by his 11 children, Katherine Wohlhuter and her husband Richard of The Villages, Fla., Kerrin Dorne and her husband Robert of Newton, Mass., Pamela Cormier of Bath, Peter J. Rogers, Jr. and his wife Anne of Washington, D.C., Patricia Ream and her husband Peter of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., Michael Rogers of Portland, Constance Bashian and her husband Richard of Newton, Mass., Monica Sheehan and her husband John of Oak Park, Ill., Kevin Rogers and his wife Ann Marie, Kristine Hodgkins and her husband Philip of Cumberland Center, and Gregory Rogers of Portland.

Called P.J. by the next generations, he leaves 24 grandchildren: Charles and Mary Wohlhuter, Kristina, Wesley, Casey and Peyton Dorne, Anne and Andrew Cormier, Edward, Caroline, Alexander, Philip and Abigail Rogers, Constance, John and Hollister Ream, Brendan Rogers, Chloe and Paige Bashian, Pierce and Maeve Sheehan, and Channing, Philip and Elizabeth Hodgkins. Peter leaves five great- grandchildren, Asia Bonny, Taveon and Destinee Karvonides, Virginia White and India Rogers.

He is survived by his sister Anne Devine of Falmouth, along with many in-laws, nieces and nephews. Peter was predeceased by his siblings Katherine, Charles and Edward; and his son-in-law, Prime Cormier, the husband of daughter Pamela.

The family thanks his private caregiver, Kathryn Higgins, for her years of outstanding and compassionate care as well as the many wonderful caregivers at Sedgewood Commons.

A memorial service will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Portland on Saturday, June 8, 2019, at 11 a.m., to celebrate the life of Peter James Rogers: A Life Well Lived and Filled with Love.
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Feb. 24, 2019
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