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A Wild Cowboy and an Eastern River Rat Insure the Future of the Community

A Wild Cowboy and an Eastern River Rat Insure the Future of the Community

Hands down the best part about my job is meeting the interesting people who do exceptional things and give to their community in unique ways.

This story starts with a self-described wild cowboy from Western North Dakota. He grew up on a ranch. After digging post holes on the vast farmland in the summertime, his mother pushed him to take the next big step, to go to college. This was just a month before classes commenced and there were no dormitory rooms available, so he drove 400 miles, found a phone booth and made some calls to find a place to live. He moved into a house with 4 other boys and an older couple who owned the home. The course of his life changed that year.

It was at North Dakota State that he met his future wife who came to the school from the eastern side of the state, those from that side of the river were affectionately called “eastern river rats.” Together the cowboy and his sweetheart (who finally agreed to go with him to a college party) built a life of service together – he as a pilot and military officer in the Army, she as a teacher, homemaker and mother of their two boys.

They moved 18 times during his career. As an experienced, talented pilot, he learned to fly Mohawks and then received orders to go to Vietnam when his son was just two months old.

Then things changed, his orders re-routed him to Saigon where 35% of those in his unit were either killed or lost in battle. They had lost 12 airplanes in the prior 14 months to the war. While he was assigned top secret missions, his family knew nothing.

After the military he flew for commercial airlines for most of his career. During that era there were numerous labor strikes on the airlines, so he found other ways to provide for his family. He worked at the Ford plant, sold air conditioning and eventually got into real estate and then retired to Southwest Florida.

Fortunately for us all, they have made a home here where they spend their time involved in their church and serving local nonprofits.

Recently the couple made a significant pledge to a local community project through their estate funded by life insurance. Their ultimate $1.5 million gift to the community, to be disbursed through the Community Foundation, is all part of a bigger plan. Their annual gift to the Foundation is used to pay the policy’s premiums, the couple receives the current tax deduction which will one day result in a sizable gift that will be distributed by the Foundation to the charities and causes they care about.

They continue to seek ways to give back, to show up, and to support others. In fact, they tell us that they pray for us and those working in service to others which may be their greatest gift of all.

If you’re interested in creating a legacy plan, gifts like life insurance, property and other planned gifts are creative ways to strategize philanthropy. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is here to help, and you don’t need to drive 400 miles to find a phone booth, 239-274-5900.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit




Carolyn Rogers
Carolyn Rogers