New Milford Loaves & Fishes founder Biddy Roger dies
Updated 3:34 pm, Wednesday, April 19, 2017
NEW MILFORD — At Loaves & Fishes Hospitality House, volunteers still ask themselves, “What would Biddy do?”
Biddy Roger, who was a “founding mother” of the nonprofit agency that has served an estimated 400,000 meals to the underprivileged since 1984, died last week. She was 82.
Born Frances Plimsoll Withers Smith to a pastor father in Canada, she went on to make New Milford her home with husband, John Roger. Here she became known as an uncompromising, faith-driven woman who made it her mission to see that the hungry were fed — rain or shine, hurricane or blizzard.
Shedding the lengthy name, she went by “Biddy,” and without shedding her beliefs she eschewed the judgmental style that sometimes characterizes the faithful.
“I’ve never met a more compassionate, loving person,” said Lisa Martin, chief operating officer for Loaves & Fishes. “She had an open heart, open arms and open ears. She never let anyone walk away feeling bad, and at the same time never judged. She didn’t have a judgmental bone in her body.”
In 1984, Roger joined Sherri McAuliffe and Alma Roberson in creating a much-needed soup kitchen in town. For the first six years, the kitchen ran out of the St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Roger was a lifelong active member. From there, it moved to its present home in the Richmond Citizen Center, where it was open seven days a week year-round.
When asked why the kitchen opened every day, Martin said, Roger had a standard response: “I like to eat every day. Don’t you?”
“Through snowstorms, when the town closes down, the state closes down, but Loaves & Fishes stays open, feeding people,” Molina said.
When Roger wasn’t at Loaves & Fishes, which she was almost daily until she was sidelined by cancer seven years ago, she was a family-minded force. Before her 1958 marriage to John, in a dress she made herself, she graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in home economics.
She taught home economics in Maine before becoming a substitute teacher in New Milford and a Brownie leader,while raising three daughters in her husband’s family home.
She considered John her husband and her best friend. They traveled every year with family to Canada for a visit to Camp Sugarplum in New Brunswick, her birthplace.
Services will be at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 11 a.m. April 22. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to New Milford VNA & Hospice, the church or to Loaves & Fishes.
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