Roger Sherman Remembered

As you are aware by now, the West Virginia forest products industry lots a stalwart this year in Roger Sherman. Roger’s Memorial Reunion was rescheduled for October 6th at Rhema Christian Center where many industry members paid their last respects.

Then, at the most recent meeting of the WVFA Board of Directors meeting, by unanimous decision, the annual Service Award – given each year at our Annual Conference in July – was renamed the “Sherman Service Award” in recognition of the outstanding and dedicated service that Roger contributed to the Forestry Association and the WV industry for over 40 years. We thank you so much, Roger.

In further commemoration, we asked Lanny Williamson, twice Past-President of WVFA, to share a letter that we wrote on the October 6 occasion of Roger’s Reunion:

“My name is Lanny Williamson. My friendship with the Sherman family dates back more than 30 years-primarily through WVFA.

I’m from Mason County-Point Pleasant area of WV. Point Pleasant is world famous for Mothman sightings. And the September festival often attracts 10,000 people. Mothman is a birdlike, mutated, humanoid creature, with piercing red eyes and a massive wing span. One sighting purported wing span of 35 feet… that was on one side. I thought you having this knowledge about my hometown might give me creditability!!

I also thought – You might wonder – what’s the possible connection with Roger Sherman and Mothman? Roger, too, had a massive wing span. Only his was over the forestry community… and his wasn’t mythical.

Preparing for today, I read a paraphrased version of Proverbs 17:17: “Friends stick together thru all kinds’ of weather. Families stick together in all kinds of trouble.” Members of the forestry community were Roger’s friends and Roger’s family.

For years, Roger chaired the WVFA Legislative Affairs Committee: My friend was always prepared, always had a meeting agenda, and always presented well researched facts and most defendable talking points.

His meeting agenda may have been: Public perception, timber harvesting, trucking legislation, water degradation, endangered species, taxes, rules, regulations – Roger knew who to contact. He knew that persons level of influence and why that person was important. His POC list encompassed legislators, corporate exes, business owners, academia, mom/pop operators, attorneys, elected/appointed officials — Roger’s wing span list of contacts was vast.

Many years ago, Roger admonished me “never lose a contact”!! There are over 2000 contacts in my iPhone; many with notes and I’ve been retired six years.

More important to Roger was his biological family:

My first memory of the Sherman family was me receiving a parenting lesson. Roger, Marlo and their son Zach were at Canaan Valley for the annual WVFA July meeting. I was standing in line with them, on limestone walkway, waiting Friday night BBQ to open. Zack was in that sometimes crawling sometimes walking stage. He fell down and like all kids, began to cry and like all parents, Marlo and Roger immediately checked on Zack. He wasn’t really hurt. No bones broken. There was no blood.

What was my parenting lesson: Unlike most parents, Marlo didn’t give him a pacifier, didn’t smother him with attention, didn’t pick him up and didn’t incentivize Zach to cry. Zach picked himself up. I recall thinking, Zack will learn to pick himself up in life.

So, with that family memory and with that sliver of knowledge about Roger’s forestry legacy, tell me what should I say to Marlo when her husband Roger died?

For two weeks, I didn’t. Then I recalled my dad being most despondent, after my mom died in 1991, at age 68, and ironically just short of their 50th wedding anniversary. A few weeks after mom’s death, I recalled a now departed Pastor – Rev Hurley- saying to my dad: “Lannes, You know what you have done? YOU have fulfilled your marriage vows: “…till death do us part… Be proud”.

I opened my iPhone contacts. There under “Roger Sherman”, in the notes section, I had copied and pasted a long forgotten message from Marlo; paraphrasing “… differentiate between listening to voice of world and listening to voice of Spirit”- I wrote Rev Hurley’s words: “you know what you have done…” to Marlo.

Additionally, I wrote, remembering Larry King interviewing [the other] spirit voice [of] Reverend Billy Graham. Mr. King asked: “Are you Rev Graham looking forward to death”? I remember thinking – WOW-what a question. I recall Rev Graham’s, noticeable pause — THEN his memorable response: “I dread the process; I look forward to my reward”.

In life, Roger rewarded all of us personally and professionally. This time, when Roger fell down, I believe Wings of The Spirit picked Roger up and have taken our friend, your family member, to his reward.”

Thank you for sharing this, Lanny.