Yesterday was my daughter’s seventh birthday. We celebrated by going to a funeral. No, really. As mentioned in this space, Roger Dvorak, my wife’s uncle, passed away last week and his funeral was yesterday. Roger was truly a wonderful guy. The son of a dentist and Minnesota’s first female parole officer, Roger and his older brother David grew up during the war years. Roger graduated from Minnehaha Academy and then earned a degree in hospital administration from the U. of Minnesota. Roger had a long, successful career as a hospital administrator, including a 20+ year stint at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, New York. He and his wife Gail raised their family in the East, returning to their beloved Minnesota following Roger’s retirement. Sadly, Roger didn’t have a long retirement, even though he had richly earned one.
There have been a few versions of Roger’s obituary printed in the last few days; all reference his generosity, compassion and sense of fun. All of these traits were on display consistently during Roger’s life. There are a lot of stories about this guy – the time he presented a pair of Size 52 swimming trunks to a friend on his way to a tropical vacation, with the presentation taking place on the plane. He once offered a live mouse in a paper bag at a family white elephant gift exchange, to the horror of every recipient. He was generous with his time, traveling to Europe, Central America, Africa and Asia to help with Habitat for Humanity projects. He worked on a house in Budapest with Jimmy Carter. He served as a mentor for two young men from the New York area. He and Gail funded a scholarship at Minnehaha Academy. He always had time for you, no matter the circumstance.
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Roger, but the few opportunities we had were all very special. A few days before I married my wife, he took me aside and told me, totally deadpan, that I still had to pass a “family entrance exam and review.” He assured me that the committee would be fair in considering my application and that the application would not be especially difficult; no harder than getting into Princeton, he assured me. When Jill and I greeted Roger and Gail on our wedding day, he softly said, “I’ve been waiting for your call.” He finally betrayed a small grin as I burst out laughing. No one was ever more welcoming than Roger Dvorak. And you didn’t need to take any exams to know that.