Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Epilogue: Charlie Rogers liked fast cars and Elvis, Jeopardy and Pepsi

Charlie Rogers didn't just maintain a 1968 Camaro or the succession of Dodges that followed; he tweaked them for maximum speed. He didn't teach his children the importance of yes sir and no sir and getting straight A's in school; he ground those demands into them.

He played Monopoly to drive his family and friends into financial ruin. Even Jeopardy! was a game-on event.

"He was competitive even with that game," said Charlene Ierna, his daughter. "He would watch it every night and call out the answers. If he had an off day, he would actually turn it off."

Mr. Rogers, a retired general contractor, also had a welcoming side. He might rouse his children from bed at 4 a.m. to dig for worms so their fishing poles would be dangling over the Hillsborough River by dawn.

He didn't just take his children into the woods hundreds of times, he turned the trips into National Geographic specials, catching snakes with his bare hands and showing them how to estimate the age of an oak tree (diameter in inches times four). He drank no alcohol but burned the back of his throat with Pepsi all his waking hours.

He flew over the highways to Elvis or Little Richard, yackety-yacking with truckers on the CB.

On weekends, Mr. Rogers drove amateur figure-eight races at Golden Gate Speedway. Away from the track, police never once caught him speeding. At home he read the encyclopedia and tried to beat the people on Jeopardy!, sending his children to a corner store when he ran out of Pepsi.

Charles Beryl Rogers was born in East Point, Ga., in 1945. He moved to Tampa around age 7, ran track at Jesuit High. He hung drywall, then passed his contractor's exam. Mr. Rogers built commercial structures in downtown Tampa, including the 42-story Barnett Plaza building (now Bank of America Plaza). A marriage to Julia Zuwalski lasted six years; another, to Iris Parrish, lasted 12.

For the past 17 years, he lived on a wooded 2-acre property in Hernando, near Inverness. He died there June 24 of an apparent heart attack. Mr. Rogers was 68.

At his memorial service Saturday at the Tampa Firefighters Museum, daughter Stacy Rogers read an original poem that included these lines: For not only our Father, but a legend has passed. … Mr. Rogers, Ole Blue eyes. … You big pain in our a--!

Celebrants toasted Charlie Rogers in the only way he would have sanctioned — with Pepsi, in 12-ounce glass bottles.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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