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Local author Jean Rogers dies at age 93

Posted: February 23, 2013 - 9:03pm  |  Updated: February 24, 2013 - 1:12am
Jean Rogers is shown in a file photo from January 6, 2009.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Jean Rogers is shown in a file photo from January 6, 2009.

Longtime Juneau resident Jean Clark Rogers died Wednesday, Feb. 20, at her home in Juneau at age 93. An integral and highly respected member of Juneau’s arts community, Rogers was primarily a writer, as well as a visual artist, mentor, active volunteer and huge supporter of the arts.

Her best known children’s books are “Goodbye My Island” and “King Island Christmas,” both of which were illustrated by her close friend, Rie Muñoz, whose experiences in the 1950s on King Island inspired Rogers to write the books. “King Island Christmas” was later adapted into an oratorio by Deborah Brevoort, premiering at Perseverance Theater in 1997 and then traveling the country. Recently revived in Juneau, the local production will be traveling to Scotland in August for a performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world. This past December, the cast from “King Island Christmas” sang the entire score for Rogers at her home, an event that delighted her, according to her daughter, Sidney Fadaoff.

Rogers’ other books were “Runaway Mittens” also illustrated by Muñoz; “The Secret Moose,” illustrated by Jim Fowler; “Dinosaurs are 568” and “Raymond’s Best Summer,” both illustrated by Marilyn Hafner; and “Left Field Bear,” illustrated by Julianna Humphreys. In 2002 Rogers was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the University of Alaska Southeast in recognition of her contributions to children’s literature.

Rogers was also a visual artist who created intricate cut-paper collages, some of which she showed at the Canvas in 2007. She also took part in many local singing groups, including the Juneau Lyric Opera and the St. Paul Singers.

Her community involvement included strong advocacy for reading and writing in the schools, work as a reading specialist in the gifted and talented program, public readings and extensive volunteer work at local libraries, including 20 years at Harborview Elementary School. She was a board member of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the Public Broadcasting Commission, and KTOO and was an active supporter of many performing arts groups and nonprofits.

Born in Idaho, Rogers came to Alaska in January 1945 with her husband, George Rogers, a well-known and influential Alaska economist. The couple met at the University of California at Berkeley in 1942, where Jean Rogers received her bachelor’s in English. They married that same year, and remained so until George Rogers’ death in 2010, nearly 69 years later.

The couple adopted six children, three of whom still live in Juneau, raising them in a house they built on Evergreen Avenue in 1945. When the house burned down in 2001, they rebuilt on the same spot, and both Jean and George Rogers remained in the family home until they died.

A memorial service for Jean Rogers will be announced later this summer.

• For a feature story on Jean Rogers and her impact on the arts community, check out next week’s Arts section in Thursday’s paper. If you have a favorite story to share, email it to Arts editor Amy Fletcher at amy.fletcher@juneauempire.com.

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