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In retirement, former Martinsville police chief begins new chapter

August 1, 2013 | Virginia News

News Image By DEBBIE HALL - Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer

Mike Rogers followed his father into a career in law enforcement. Today, as Rogers starts a new job, he again will keep a tradition set by his dad.

Rogers, 54, retired Wednesday as Martinsville’s police chief, and today he will begin a full-time job at Collins and McKee-Stone Funeral Home.

This second career — just as his first — stemmed from the example set by his father, retired Henry County sheriff James Rogers.

James Rogers, 88, was a decorated Marine and spent 21 years in the Corps before retiring. He received the Bronze Star with Combat V (Valor), the Purple Heart for his actions in the Korean War, and many other medals and honors while serving on the Marine Corps Pistol and Rifle Shooting teams.

Nine months after retiring from the military, he joined the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.

That was nearly 50 years ago.

“It was two days before my sixth birthday, but I can remember the day he got the job like it was yesterday,” Mike Rogers said. It was Nov. 1, 1964, and his father was assigned to work as a road deputy for his first three years and also helped serve civil papers.

In 1966, James Rogers and a former sheriff’s captain, Earle Steele, were asked to organize an Investigations Division. James Rogers spent seven years as an investigator and later attained the rank of lieutenant.

He also established a records system for the department in 1974 and later was promoted to captain. Rogers was third in command in 1979 when he ran for election to the sheriff’s position. He went on to serve three four-year terms before retiring with 27 years of service in law enforcement.

The elder Rogers also served with the Martinsville-Henry County Honor Guard from 1991 to 2008.

The Honor Guard performs ceremonies at the gravesides of veterans, often including a 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps” and the folding and presentation of the flag.

Doing that was “a great way to pay tribute and show respect for the service and sacrifices of a departed comrade,” he said.

The service also means “a lot to the family and close friends,” and the flag presentation “provides the family with a lasting memory” of their loved one, he added.

Each time his father performed in the Honor Guard, Mike Rogers said he took note. When it came time for him to retire and “knowing how much my dad enjoyed paying tribute to our veterans, I knew I would really enjoy the opportunity to help people in their time of loss,” Rogers said.

He plans to return to college to pursue a degree in mortuary science in hopes of becoming a funeral director, he said.

He decided on his second career not only because of his father, but also because “most of the compliments I’ve received over the years have come from family and friends who expressed their appreciation” for funeral escorts that were provided by the police department, Rogers said.

“An officer standing at attention with his or her hand over their heart means a lot to the family,” Rogers said. “I really look forward to being able to continue helping people in an honorable manner during their time of loss.”

Also, in his retirement, Rogers said he hopes to spend more time with his wife, Jackie, “who has been so supportive through the years,” and other family members. Of course, the younger Rogers will include his father, just as he did Wednesday, his last day of work at the police department.

“I went by and picked up my dad and brought him to work with me,” Rogers said. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on all the great times I had accompanying him to work,” he said, and gave his dad a soft nudge.

“One of the stops we always made was to visit this location,” he said while standing near the former Henry County courthouse in uptown Martinsville.

Mike Rogers explained that the Henry County Sheriff’s Office formerly was located there, “and I can’t tell you the number of times I walked up the steps and down the sidewalk” when going to work with his father.

“I used to sit on that wall right there” and wait for his dad, he recalled.

In 1980, Rogers entered the law enforcement field, joining the Martinsville Police Department.

He worked in criminal investigations and vice and narcotics before he was named sergeant of criminal investigations in 1992. Two years later, he was appointed sergeant of community policing and street crimes.

Rogers became assistant police chief in August 1999 and was promoted to chief two months later — with his dad there to help mark the occasion.

Rogers added that the years he spent in law enforcement have “been a good run.”

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