Bernard ‘Bernie’ Fowler Rogers

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Bernie Rogers with his canine love, Tati.

There are men who take extreme pleasure in life, who live it fully in body, mind and spirit, love it deeply without regret, and, with a little luck, age gracefully – Bernie Rogers was such a man.

Born Nov. 8, 1931, in Chicago, to parents James and Jane Linn Rogers. Bernie Rogers attended Middlesex School (Class of ’49) and Yale College (Class of ’53). His academic experience left him with a keen intellectual curiosity and an artistic sensibility, particularly for literature and architecture. He aspired to be a writer following his graduation from Yale, but instead spent time with counter intelligence in Japan, then attended the University of Innsbruck.

He returned to Chicago, where he married Elizabeth (Bumpy) Elting, and had four sons, Mark, Michael, Paul and Christopher.

In Chicago, Bernie hung out with architects, writers and artists during a wonderful period of his life. He was the youngest trustee on the board of the Chicago Art Institute, worked with a black youth gang called the Vice Lords, was president of the Lincoln Park Zoo, went water skiing before work in the mornings, and took up gliding and hot air ballooning on the weekends.

Following his divorce, after thirteen years of marriage, Bernie moved to New York to further his career with Marsh and McLennan, an insurance brokerage firm. In New York, he married Leslie Pasch Woods and was a father to her two children, Tony and Vandy Woods. That marriage lasted 17 years.

In New York, Marsh and McLennan allowed Bernie to start his own company, first called Marsh and McLennan Group Associates and later Seabury and Smith Inc.

During Bernie’s 12 year tenure, the subsidiary grew from 200 to 4,500 employees. He enjoyed his work and the people he worked with, and they loved him. While he never missed a day of work due to health reasons, his love of travel, particularly to Italy and Greece, led to a few days off. At 58, following a health scare, he retired from his chairmanship of Seabury and Smith Inc., and from his seat on the board of directors of Marsh and McLennan.

Tired of the pace of city life, he began spending time in Aspen, where he built a small house on the Roaring Fork River, and also in St. Barthelemy and Fish Creek, Wis., where he had already built houses. About this time, he co-founded Lost Man LLC., a pet company created for his amusement and loathing of Christmas shopping and for the pleasure of his friends and family. He spent as much time as possible in the outdoors, and in this setting he married Mary Conover, his wife of nine years. He provided great paternal support to her son, Nick Greenway. Bernie was sorry their marriage ended this year, but wished her well.

In Aspen, Bernie Rogers cherished the wilderness, where he found peace and vitality.

He was a supporter of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, with the goal of advancing nature education for children. He presided over lunches with friends at favorite restaurants with the savoir faire of an urbane sophisticate who could have graced the Algonquin Roundtable.

As much as Bernie loved the mountains, he also loved the oceans. Sea kayaking was a passion, and he paddled with aplomb and untiring enthusiasm. Summer or winter, he bronzed his skin to a dark shade that contrasted with his bleached, white hair.

Bernie Rogers was joyously youthful. His vibrant spirit was revealed most beautifully when he smiled, which was often. His life-learned wisdom came as much from deep personal challenges as it did from the books he read and the thoughts he pondered.

Bernie’s smile derived from the depths of a life buoyed by an undaunted spirit whose force shone on those who needed it most.

Bernie Rogers was 78 when he passed away on Sept. 10, 2010 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction as a result of complications from heart surgery.

He is survived by two sisters, May Jay Clay of Lake Forest, Ill., and Hope Haff of Jamaica Plain, Mass.; three sons, Michael Rogers of Lake Hill, N.Y., Christopher Rogers and Paul Rogers of Sag Harbor, N.Y.; two stepsons, Tony Woods of New York City, N.Y. and Nicholas Greenway of Aspen; stepdaughter, Vandy Boudreau of San Francisco, Calif., and six grandchildren. He loved all of his children and grandchildren deeply. He will be greatly missed by his family and by all those who had the good fortune to spend a little time with him.

A small family service is scheduled for Oct. 10, 2010 in Fish Creek, Wis. A larger memorial service is planned for June 2011 in Aspen.