■ BY DEAN M. LAUX
If you have not yet met Richard and Robert Rogers, you have been missing out on something. The two brothers, known to most as “Rich” and “Rob,” have proved to be more itinerant than Moses and more adventuresome than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
To do justice to their 68 years of existence would require a full-fledged book. Now that they have “retired” to a more sedentary existence in the Boca Grande area, a brief trailer about their epic experiences will have to suffice.
To begin with, for much of their lives no one has been able to tell them apart – not even their parents. As identical twins, they dressed alike, roomed together, got into mischief together and had fun pretending they were each other. As youngsters, they often escaped punishment because no one knew which one to blame. And sometimes they both got what-for, even the innocent one.
Technically, Rich was the older twin by several minutes and also slightly larger than Rob. Perhaps this is why their early life together could be described as one of intense sibling rivalry punctuated by periods of fierce sibling rivalry.
“It wasn’t physical,” said Rob, who nonetheless remembered, among other things, being pushed by his brother down the cellar steps in a baby carriage at around age 3.
“We were competitive, but I was not an aggressive person.” Rich maintained his innocence in the matter. Born in Middleborough, Mass. to parents of modest circumstances – their father, Edwin, was a meatcutter and later a frozen foods manager at First National Stores, and their mother, Annabelle May, was a housewife – they were good students in the Middleborough schools, lettered in sports and got into nearby Bridgewater State.
“We didn’t get scholarships, but the tuition was only about $300 at that time, and we worked all through those years,” Rich remembered. They landed most jobs as a duo: hammering sheetrock at age 16, picking apples, working in the cranberry bogs. Rich majored in history and Russian studies, Rob in history and political science – and thereafter, neither ever held a position relevant to his major.
Both young men left college in 1970 just a few credits short of graduating and took low-level jobs that would bring them into close quarters with some shady characters. But their careers took them on different paths, and they would remain apart though in regular contact for the better part of 36 years.
In July of 1970, Rich married his sweetheart Pat and needed a job. He got one with American Finance (which later became Beneficial Finance) as a debt collector in South Boston, probably the city’s toughest urban area. “I was a leg breaker,” he said with a laugh. It turned out that his legs were targeted more often than anyone else’s. After literally dodging airborne frying pans and angry delinquents for a few years, he became a credit manager for Beneficial. Thereafter he took successive credit manager jobs at Howard Johnson’s, Schmid, United Liquors, where on occasion he brushed shoulders with the notorious gangland boss, Whitey Bulger, and finally a computer company, Elcom Corporation, where he worked until retirement.
Along the way, Rich and Pat had two daughters, Marianne (born in 1975) and Kerry (born in 1976), both of whom now live in Taunton, Mass. They have one granddaughter, Arielle, and three grandsons: Ty, Kyren and Jamie. When Rich took his job as a “leg breaker,” Rob found work operating a paper cutter for Rand McNally, the map company. For those unfamiliar with these machines, a commercial paper cutter has a huge, very sharp blade which slices thin strips of paper. A hand can be lost if the operator is not vigilant. Rob held this job unscathed for four years, until his boss asked him to switch to the gluing machine. Rob did not want to make the switch to a messy, unhealthy assignment. He left the company rather than do so.
“I was unemployed for 96 weeks,” Rob recalled. This was during the oil crunch in 1974, and jobs were scarce. But he was able to find employment with Herald Press in Pawtuckett, R.I., operating their paper cutter and folder.
He later took a job with Halladay Litho’s bindery in Plympton, Mass., and in 1981 he got into the greyhound racing business, boarding and training dogs in Belmont, N.H. Greyhound racing is a seasonal business in the north, so Rob decided to try a winter in Alabama.
“It was complete culture shock,” he said, so he opted for following the greyhound circuit as an owner and trainer. His stopovers included Kansas and South Dakota, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where he was able to live at his parents’ home and take a temporary job as a cab driver. That “temporary” job became essentially a full-time one for 16 years, until 2002.
Rob’s seven-year relationship with his girlfriend Kim had come to an end in 1993, and he never married. When he gave up the cabbie business in 2002, he took jobs wherever he could find them: sales clerk in an adult video store (the police closed it down in 2003), courier, store stocker for Ben & Jerry’s, counter clerk in a convenience store and a B & E Variety store.
When that store was bought out in 2008 and the new owner laid him off, Rob found time to help brother Rich drive an RV to Florida. Their lives would again become entwined.
Rich had retired in 2006, and he and Pat built a home in North Port. In 2009 they sold their home and settled in a penthouse condominium in The Hammocks, Cape Haze, where Rob came to live with them. However, the two brothers did not stay idle. Rich was a paid school crossing guard in North Port for three years and later worked as a credit analyst for Light Bulb Depot in Sarasota. That proved to be a long daily commute, and in 2011 he took a local job as a postal carrier in Rotonda. That lasted for one year.
Rich now works for the Palm Island Transit, which operates the ferry from Placida Road to Palm Island. You can find him on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., and on weekends until 11 p.m. “As the ferry’s mate, I’m responsible for the safety of the vehicles and passengers,” he said. “We get cars, bikes, walkers, motorcycles, golf carts, semi’s cement trucks, garbage trucks, fire trucks and ambulances. I’m also known as the dog photographer. I just use my cell phone, but the passengers seem to like the results.”
What does he like best about his job? “
The camaraderie with the passengers. I also like the dogs (Rich and Pat own Fenway, a cocker spaniel), and the marine life.” Rob worked for Circle K in Englewood as a stock clerk for a few months before finding his current position, one that he thoroughly enjoys. He’s close to home, serving as a stock clerk at Hudson’s grocery in Boca Grande. “I love working there,” he said. “Emily and Howard Wise, the owners, treat their employees really well. The pay is good, we get free lunch, and it’s a great working environment.” Rob’s take on Boca Grande? “I love it here. They can’t keep me away. I come over to the beach on my days off.”
The brothers have been through a lot, but when they recount their experiences, they do so with plenty of laughs. And these days they always wear a smile. Maybe it’s that “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” have finally found their paradise.