Seventy-six year old Roger Uhrman has a phrase that keeps him going: “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain amount of things. I’m so far behind, I’ll never die!”
Two years ago Roger suffered a serious
setback when doctors found three abscesses and a
cancerous tumor in his body. Bedridden and in
It’s obvious that Roger’s work here on earth isn’t done. After 40 years of climbing the ladder at Delco Electronics, a division of General Motors, he retired in 1992 from what was the only full-time job he ever had. He retired – but he certainly didn’t slow down.
Over the years Roger has become a mentor to dozens of men and women throughout the world. He doesn’t just settle for performing small acts of kindness…instead, he opens his heart and his home to complete strangers.
In 1999 Roger opened his home in Muskego, Wisconsin to two young brothers. Basari, 23 and Selatin, 27, had fled from the war in Kosovo. To these men, Roger was heaven-sent. Although they entered his home with only a brown paper bag filled with all their wordly possessions, Roger went to work filling their lives with hope and love. He taught them to speak English, taught them to drive, found them jobs and helped manage their earnings. By 2001, the boys had saved $14,000 with Roger’s guidance. Roger then traveled back to Kosovo with them, where they used their earnings to rebuild their parents’ home. Although he was scheduled to stay a month, he returned after just ten days – the devastation and suffering he witnessed were too much for him to bear.
Roger’s days are also spent carpooling women from a nearby Senior Community to doctor appointments and other errands. He also helps a partially-blind woman from his parish. In October, he drove her to Minnesota on two separate occasions – the first time to visit a vision specialist and the second to pick up her new glasses.
Although Roger and his late wife, Sandra, never had children of their own, they filled that void by opening their home to over 30 foreign
That student, Helge, has more contact with Roger than he does with his own father. In fact, two years ago Helge came to visit for one month. “All we did is hike the bluffs along the Mississippi River!” said Roger, who was 74 at the time. He suspects that Helge will visit again in the near future.
Roger maintains relationships with four or five of his exchange students. A student from Japan continues to try to get Roger to visit him. A trip was planned for last year, but he didn’t make the journey. He explains that he fears that his American manners and traditions might offend the Japanese people. “I’m leery about going to Osaka,” he explains. “The Japanese are so regimented in politeness that it scares me.”
When Roger does find free time, he enjoys traveling. But of course he goes all out: he’s been to Spain three times, Germany four times, Switzerland, Austria, Israel, Italy and to Turkey for one month. It was there that he met a young man he calls his “Spanish Turk” who worked in the hotel where Roger stayed. The two have kept in contact for 10 years. In email correspondences the young man always refers to Roger as “grandfather” and signs off as “grandson.” Roger has been unable to get the proper documentation for his young friend, but he continues to try to get him to the States.
Roger and his late wife were married on August 5, the feast of Our Lady of the Snows. In honor of this occasion, Roger has made an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois for the past 25 years. It was at the Shrine that Roger’s love for the Oblates and their ministries began.
Roger Uhrman has spent a lifetime giving to others. And yet, he won’t stop there. He has chosen to put the Missionary Oblates in his will, offering all his assets to their missionary work. He wants to give this gift in thanks to God for the life he has been given. Roger is an incredible man. He has dedicated his life to bettering the lives of others – he is a true missionary and friend.