Shirley Lynn Foster Rogahn
(April 6, 1927–August 22, 2012)
Shirley Rogahn, retired pharmacist and mother of four, died last Wednesday morning. She had suffered steadily declining health this past month. At nearly 85 and a half years, it was her time.
Shirley Lynn Foster Rogahn and her sister, Betty, were born in their grandmother’s home on Campbell Station Road in Concord, Tenn., on April 6, 1927, to Reba Cruse and Luther Blaine Foster.
Reba had been a schoolteacher, and Luther a storekeeper for a coal company. The family lived in St. Charles, Virginia; but to prepare for the twin births, Reba made the trip to her mother’s home near Knoxville.
Reba, Luther, and their two girls lived in a coal camp in Virginia (the Kemmerer Gem) until the twins were juniors in high school, when the family moved near Knoxville. Luther and his brother-in-law, Carl Cruse, bought a rolling store—a truck that carried groceries out to folks in rural Tennessee. They later bought a regular grocery store. Shirley was not happy about leaving St. Charles, and going to a new high school for two years. But the girls must have done all right at Kearnes High School. Betty was in the school play, and at graduation, Shirley was valedictorian.
Twins do have their own language. Betty and Shirley addressed each other as “LeShuh” and “LeBuh.” Their mother dressed them alike, they did things together, and they even planned to go to college together to become librarians. “We thought that would be a nice, quiet occupation,” Shirley recalled, and she and Betty wanted to take up those studies back in Virginia. But their mother had another plan: Attend the University of Tennessee, right there in Knoxville. They did start at UT-Knoxville. But the two of them scoured the university catalog for something that would get them out of Knoxville and away from their parents—who were nice enough, even-tempered people, mind you, but somewhat strict. The twins enrolled in pharmacy, so they could transfer to the University of Tennessee at Memphis. “Little did we know that pharmacy was the hardest course you could take outside medicine,” Shirley recalled. “Someone once told me I practically had a minor in chemistry with all the pharmacy courses I had taken.”
On graduation, the twins’ lives diverged. Betty married. Put simply, “My former boyfriend liked her better than me,” Shirley said. And Shirley headed to the University of Mississippi to teach, while Betty took a job at a pharmacy in Memphis. To remain in a teaching career, Shirley would need additional education, so after a year in Mississippi, she headed to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she obtained a master’s degree. She also picked up a new boyfriend, Carl E. Rogahn, who was headed for a career in homebuilding and real estate. He graduated in 1949 and returned to his hometown of Milwaukee. But after gaining her master’s, Shirley headed back south, to teach in Arkansas. Eventually, Shirley and Carl were wed in August 1951 in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where the bride’s parents had relocated. Luther Foster died only a couple of months after that wedding, and Reba then returned to her mother’s home in Concord, where she lived until shortly before her death in 1981. Shirley and Carl, meanwhile, had set up a home on the north side of Milwaukee, where Shirley finally obtained a pharmacist’s license and began working at Schuster’s, a retail drug store a block or two away.
Shirley put her career on hold while giving birth to four children between 1953 and 1957: Kurt, Fritz, Mark, and Katherine. She returned to retail pharmacy part-time in 1959, and about a year later took a part-time job (later full-time) as a pharmacist at St. Luke’s Hospital, from which she retired in the mid-1980s. She also taught bacteriology for a year or two in the mid-1960s in the pre-pharmacy program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After leaving St. Luke’s, she worked as a pharmacist at retirement homes, nursing homes, and as a fill-in at several retail pharmacies, before retiring permanently, shortly after Carl’s death in 1998.
Shirley Rogahn was a voracious reader, an accomplished cook, and a lover of fine art, opera, classical music—and cats. She liked to keep up with what was new in the world. For instance, it was she who bought her children their first copy of the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in part because she had read about it, and wanted to know what the fuss was about. She and Carl traveled widely, to Europe, and Hawaii (which she loved). They weren’t too impressed with Australia, but when they went to New Zealand, they hated it!
She is survived by three of her children: Kurt (Lynn), Fritz, and Katherine Smith (Mack); by two grandchildren, Dan Rogahn (Kate) and Laurel Davis (Jesse); by a great-grandson, Connor Rogahn; her sister, Betty Cooke; a sister-in-law, Edna Canfield; and nieces and nephews.