When I received the news of Judge Michael Roewe’s passing, I was shocked to say the least. I thought to myself, “I just saw and spoke to him not even a week earlier.”
He was always so full of life, full of vigor, a great example in my mind of a person in great health. After I got over my shock, I began thinking of all the many things he did and the lives he touched, so I would rather write about the person I came to know than his sudden passing.
Let me begin by talking about my understanding of what it means when I say “a life well lived.”
As a child, and throughout my entire life, I have never really been satisfied with explanations I would hear from others, especially words like, “well that’s just the way it is.”
I was never satisfied with that answer.
I would drive my mother and father crazy by always questioning everything. I wasn’t trying to be obstinate, I just wanted to know why. I have always had a desire to understand. I had a difficult time just accepting things as they are, and I still do.
I have always been fascinated with the question, “what is the meaning of life?” Is there a meaning? And if so, what is the meaning? Is it defined by someone else or by each person individually?
I have concluded that it is both — and sometimes neither.
Along with that question, I have often thought, what is it that my children, my children’s children, my friends and anyone else who knew me remember about me? I realize we live on not only genetically though our biological children but in a thousand wonderful, happy and sometimes not so happy memories of those who come after us.
My conclusion is unless they are family, they may not remember a whole lot. But they will remember how much you loved. By love, I mean this is the broadest sense of the word. How did you better the lives of those around you? How did you treat your children, your parents, your relatives, your friends, your coworkers, your community, the strangers you met?
I have a favorite quote from Dean Koontz that I often repeat when I talk and think about our lives’ impact on others: "Each smallest act of kindness reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it's passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.”
I think this sums it up. Wouldn’t you agree?
I met Judge Roewe shortly after my wife and I moved to the area from east of the Cascades. I did not know him when he was a district court judge, but his good reputation on the bench was still being talked about. By the way, I always called him Judge Roewe when we were in meetings together or when I was speaking of him in community settings. I did this out of respect. I just couldn’t bring myself to refer to him as Michael Roewe. Respect was something I learned from both my parents, especially my mother. I got to know him as a fellow board member for the Housing Resource Center, as a fellow participant in community meetings and eventually a board member for my agency, Cascade Community Healthcare.
I recognized right away by listening and watching him in board meetings he had a passion and great love for others.
He would become indignant in meetings when others failed to see the necessity of the work of helping those most in need. The work of self-sacrifice and giving back to the community he loved was very important to him. His volunteer work and fervor for the betterment of others, for his community, and for those that the community maybe did not pay much attention to seemed boundless.
The homeless, the mentally ill, the sufferers of domestic abuse. His voice in meetings would be loud and indignant when others could not see the pain, the hurt, the sadness that was so evident to him. At times I did see weariness on his face. He would joke when I asked if he was doing OK. He would say, “I'll slow down someday — I just need to stop volunteering.”
He and I both knew that slowing down was not an option for him, though neither of us verbalized it to the other. He did tell me once, jokingly, “I try to keep my weekends not so busy, so I don’t shave on the weekends, it’s against my religion.”
Because Judge Roewe loved, he saw beyond himself. He could have just sat back and retired. He could have chosen to spend his retirement years traveling, maybe golfing, maybe just doing what a lot of retired people end up doing, which is whatever they want to do. But, that type of retirement was not Judge Roewe’s style. He was not one to sit back content with what was happening in his community. He was one of those rare individuals who believed in public betterment even when there was no real incentive to do so, monetary or otherwise.
Now, is that not love?
His joy, his passion, his drive was to help make the people in his community better. To be a voice for those who did not have a voice. To use his intellect and impressive life accomplishments for the benefit of those suffering.
That is love! That is impressive!
That is the Judge Roewe who I came to know, to love, and appreciate. He may not have known of the quote by Dean Koontz but he understood it better than most. His service, his life, his passion, his love “reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo.”
Judge, if you can see or feel the love and care with which I write this, which somehow I believe you can, I will always be appreciative of the example you set for those of us who endeavor to be servants to others and make our small corner of the world a better place. Thank you for the example you left for us to follow. You were truly a server to others. You will live in my memory, and in the memory of those who were lucky enough to know you.
Rest in peace, joy, and love my good friend!
Richard Stride has been a practicing psychotherapist. He has worked in behavioral and forensic mental health for over 30 years as a counselor, clinical director and senior executive. He served eight years as a captain in the United States Army Reserve. He enjoys teaching, public speaking and prides himself on being a student of history. He is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.