MARQUETTE, MI – Roger Elting Greeley, a real character, came close to his desire to live to be 100, dying on October 28, 2021 in Marquette, Michigan, at the age of 98.
He was born on September 16, 1923, at his home in Madison, Wisconsin, to Floretta Elmore Greeley and Dr. Hugh Payne Greeley. He was the youngest of 5 children. A class clown and natural leader, Rog was a selfless student. Despite a photographic memory, he barely graduated from high school before starting an acting internship at Ivoryton Theater in Connecticut. Back in Madison, he became a welder at a busy defense factory, but soon enlisted in the US Marines, offering to replace a fellow welder with three children, who had been drafted. Rog dispatched to Iwo Jima, a member of the Fifth Amphibious Corps, serving as a member of the military police. After nearly four years abroad, he returned to the United States in January 1946 and settled in Boston. Thanks to GI Bill, Rog received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Boston University and worked part-time at the gourmet food store, SS Pierce. There, he meets Katherine Purcell, a native of Boston who will become his one true love and wife for 70 years. The young couple had their first official date on their 18th birthday in 1946, during a Red Sox game. They married in 1949. With a teaching certificate in their pocket, Rog and Kay moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1951. Rog taught history at Battle Creek High School. Influenced by his first cousin, the Reverend Dana McLean Greeley, a Unitarian Universalist pastor, Rog considered the Divinity School. His interest in prayer and ministry was first recognized in 1957 when he was called to full-time ministry by the People’s Church congregation in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thus began an astonishing and inspiring 28-year term at People’s, a Universalist Unitarian Church founded in 1886. The church has grown considerably under his leadership; her accomplishments have been numerous, including the creation of Michigan’s first senior center, community theater productions, family summer camps, and the Friday Night Family Movie Theater. Perhaps his Christmas services were the most memorable, when he descended from the third balcony on a rope (Swinging Santa). The kids loved it and so did he. Civil rights, separation of church and state, and family planning were important public policy interests, which led Rog to serve on local boards of NAACP, ACLU and Planned Parenthood. He and Kay walked on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King in August 1963. He also toured the United States for several years to recreate the speeches of Robert Ingersoll, accompanied by his beloved friend and co-creator, the late Floyd Smith of Kalamazoo. Rog was a published author, who included TJ Day by Day, the words of Thomas Jefferson; several volumes on the life and work of Colonel Ingersoll; and Don’t Touch Your Toes, a fitness book co-authored with Dr. Constantine Nicholas. Rog and Kay loved life and each other. They loved concerts, plays, movies, golf, friends, breakfasts, cruises, sports and weekends in Chicago. They were also very fond of their three children, Bethany Greeley of Georgia, Timothy (Janet) Greeley of Marquette, Will (Mary) Greeley of Midland, as well as their six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, Elliot (Ali) Kaiman of Connecticut, Emily (Brandon) Haugh of Minnesota, Theodore (Erika) Greeley of Marquette, Patrick (Amy) Greeley of Marquette, Nathan (Emily) Greeley of E. Lansing, Matthew (Alyssa) Greeley of Wisconsin; great-grandchildren, Malcolm and Otto Kaiman, Lucy and Grady Haugh, Virginia and Finton Greeley and Adalind Greeley.
Kay killed him in October 2019, an event Roger chose not to recover from. The couple always put an end to their letters and cards, “Enjoy!”, and often cited Ingersoll, “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make others happy. “ They also lived it. Her family would like to thank the staff at Mill Creek Assisted Living and Lake Superior Hospice for their compassionate care.
A private family ceremony is planned. In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to donate to the Marine Corps Veterans Association.
Fassbender Swanson Hansen Funeral and Cremation Services are at the service of the family, where condolences can be expressed online at fassbenderswansonhansen.com.