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Happy 90th birthday to Roger Straight

(Thwock! Whack!)

Come on, come on — get your back into it.

(Thwock! Whack!)

Don’t try to splinter it. Let the axe do the work.

(Thwock! Whack!)

Keep a steady rhythm, nothing to it.

(Thwock! Whack!)

Well, except that there’s everything to it.

A cord of firewood doesn’t just happen.

Labor-intensive, it is.

All that sawing, chopping and splitting.

Especially if you’re doing all the above by yourself.

The first thing you’ll see when you hit the driveway of Roger Straight’s Morgantown area home is an amazing cord of firewood off to one side.

It was sawed, chopped and splintered months ago by the man himself — when he was a mere pup of 89.

Today, he turns 90, and on a recent weekday at his house, he was thinking about a second cord, for cold nights and frosty mornings to come.

“I can probably bring down another tree,” he said.

The amazing thing, said his wife June, is that the guy who just chopped through eight decades on Earth will likely do it.

Heck, what’s even more amazing, she added, is that he’d probably jump in to help with your firewood, if you needed him to.

“That’s just how he does things. He never makes a big deal about it.”

Which, she said, is a big deal unto itself.

‘Here we are’ 

Roger Straight grew up on the same patch of Earth where he and June built their house and raised their four daughters.

He was a dark-haired guy who served on the aircraft carrier, the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the height of the Korean War.

She was an auburn-haired charmer with a chin-down smile whose middle name, “Eleanor,” was for Franklin’s First Lady.

They met at a square dance in Rock Forge, after he sailed the world from the Mediterranean to the Horn of Africa to the craggy seaports of Alaska, on the big carrier everyone called, “The Rosie.”

It didn’t take long for rosy romance to blossom after that square dance.

June had Roger after the first Allemande Left.

All it took were a couple of Do-Si-Dos from Roger for June to be thoroughly smitten.

“And here we are,” she said.

“Yep,” her husband replied.

She “had an inkling,” she said, that her square-dance suitor had something working on the evening he proposed. They celebrated their 64th anniversary June 1.

June for years operated a beautician’s shop out of the ground floor of their home.

Roger made his work life at the former Westinghouse factory in Fairmont.

He grew up in outlying Monongalia County with four brothers and two sisters. His dad, Howard, was a carpenter who later worked for the local school district.

His mother, Edna May, never worked outside of the home, her son said.

After all, it was a big enough job in the home, as he said, chasing after the aforementioned brood.

A couple of siblings died young, but their children never did without, courtesy of Uncle Roger and Aunt June, one of their nieces said.

“Totally unselfish people,” said Gloria Morgan, who looks in on them daily.

“And a real presence in my life.” 

If you can … help

During the bitterly cold Christmas of 1968, Gloria’s Uncle Roger was a real presence for his new neighbors and old friends.

It was the first holiday in their house.

They were lucky in those below-zero temperatures, but many of their neighbors weren’t. The pipes that didn’t freeze up — burst.

The woodchopper became Santa with a plumber’s wrench, taking on one house at a time, to repair the damage wrought by the blue-cold Yule.

“I was out pretty much all day,” he said.

When the water emerged from the taps, he said, it was just like getting Christmas presents, on top of your birthday presents.

“You should help, if you can.”

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