Because of you, surviving spouses of retired enlisted airmen live in a community with their peers where they can share memories of military life
By Millie Hizer
Rogene and Charlie actually met twice before they became an item, although they didn’t realize it until they had been dating for more than a month. “The first time we met it was in a small nightclub in Niceville, Florida,” Rogene explains. “He really wanted to dance with me and so I let him. He was so good and I wasn’t really a dancer so I walked off and left him on the dance floor. He was in shock.”
The second time the couple came across each other was at a USO Gym Dance at Eglin Air Force Base. Rogene, who accepted an office position at Eglin right after graduating from high school, was encouraged by her friends to attend the dance. Shortly after entering the gym, a handsome man asked Rogene to dance, an event that would officially introduce her to the love of her life. Rogene muses, “Since it was dark the first and second time I met him, I had no idea it was the same guy from the nightclub. He didn’t use his Fred Astaire moves at the gym dance.”
After the dance, Charlie couldn’t stop thinking about Rogene. One Monday night, on opposite sides of town, both Rogene and Charlie were listening to a theater drama featuring Steven Foster. When the program began to play Foster’s popular song “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” Charlie knew he had to see his Jeanie with the light brown hair.
Rogene recalls, “He came to my parent’s house, where I was still living at the time, around 9:00 p.m. and called for me. He had been listening to the same program I had and told me that ‘Steven Foster’s song made me think of you.’” Rogene, slightly embarrassed, but delighted that her handsome Charlie had been thinking of her, remembers this visit as one of the most romantic gestures of their relationship.
After nearly eight months of Charlie wooing Rogene with his dance moves and a little bit of old- fashioned romance, the couple decided to marry. Consequently, the pair spent fifty-eight and one half years together, bringing joy to each other every step of the way. During their time together, Rogene and Charlie had six children and supported each other in any and every way that they could.
Shortly after getting married, Charlie was sent to work in an undisclosed location to test H-bomb technologies. “I hated not knowing where he was, but eventually I found out because a reporter figured it out and mentioned it on the radio,” Rogene explains.
After working overseas, the couple moved to California where Charlie finished out his fifteen years in the service and eventually retired. With his time in the Air Force complete, Charlie moved his family back to the Niceville area where he was able to utilize his technical skills working in a service station garage.
Some of Rogene’s favorite memories with Charlie revolve around his creativity and ability to see the opportunity for elaborate designs from the simplest of objects. Rogene notes, “Charlie was so great at building things. He built these amazing play sets wherever the children and I were and always had to be doing something. You should have seen some of the things he built.”
After nearly fifty-nine years of a beautiful marriage filled with travel, creativity, love, and even heartbreak, Charlie passed away, leaving Rogene a widow. After Charlie passed, Rogene lived alone in their family home for nearly five years. The isolation did little to benefit her health. “I didn’t want to leave our house, but in the end I knew moving to Bob Hope Village was the right decision,” Rogene explains. “I was losing my eyesight and couldn’t drive, and living without a close community just wasn’t practical anymore.”
Thankfully, Rogene was able to move into Bob Hope Village where she has happily resided for the past seven years. She notes, “This move was very necessary for my daughters to have peace of mind about my living situation. It really is the ideal place for me to live.”
Because of contributions from our faithful supporters, widows like Rogene are able to spend their retirement years in a safe and supportive environment. Rogene puts it best, “This is such a great place to live. There are so many advantages to living here, but most of all I have a community, and that is something that cannot be replaced.”