See you down the road 50-50
Kootenay Crust (Op-Ed Commentary)
By Ian Cobb
The person who individually raised more money for a given cause, likely in the history of the Columbia Valley, decided to say “enough of this mortal coil business” last weekend. Roger Dubielewicz took his tireless giving nature, steady, warming smile topped with a trademark walrus ‘stach and genuine friendliness to head up the line to heaven.
I can’t imagine anyone in the Columbia Valley not knowing Roger to one degree or another.
Anyone who has attended Columbia Valley Rockies games will recognize his face, as he would have most assuredly, with arm-lengths of tickets clutched in one hand and a large coffee can full of coins and bills in the other, have hit them up to buy 50-50 tickets with a big ‘come on, you know you want to’ smile.
Roger has been doing that since long before I first met him, in 1991. He sold 50-50 tickets for the Rockies, as well as film video of games, home game in and out – for about four decades!
He raised a sweet sum for the Rockies in that time. An amazing accomplishment and one I am sure the Rockies organization, as well as Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena management, will recognize with an appropriate honour in time.
Roger did a lot more for the Rockies than that, too.
I first met him as a fellow member of the Rockies board of directors in the summer of 1991. I’d been in the valley just two weeks when Eddie Mountain hit me up to the join the board. It was hard to say no to Eddie.
Skip ahead three decades and Roger was still working hard for his favourite hockey team. It’s a love he passed on to his children. Son Wade, a former NHL goalie, is the Rockies’ general manager and son Scott is the club’s head scout/director of player personnel. And their mother Phyllis ran the Eddie Mountain Arena for many years before her retirement a few years ago.
“The Rockies family are saddened to announce the passing of long-time volunteer Roger Dubielewicz. Most of you know Roger as Mr. 50/50 in the stands. Roger had been extensively involved with the club for almost 40 years. The Rockies would like to extend our sincere condolences to the Dubielewicz family in this difficult time,” the club stated on social media.
I was lucky enough to have a bond with Roger that only railroaders share. Because I once worked for CPR, we always had plenty to talk about.
And because I had worked for CPR, I was able to realize how special of a person Roger was. He was the Roadmaster for the Windermere Subdivision – the person in charge of ensuring safe passage of trains 24/7 and 365 days a year.
Many moons ago I worked for a couple of roadmasters back east who easily qualify as ‘the biggest arseholes in history.’ For many reasons, one could see why they had to be hard-cases – yellers and shouters and barkers.
When I learned the quiet, easy-going Roger was a Roadmaster, my perception of leadership was forever altered. I wish I had emulated his style far earlier on.
The time he spent patrolling his bailiwick, in his high-rail or up and down the highways, showed in Roger’s spacious intellect – the kind formed when one has time to think quickly followed by having to be at the top of one’s game.
One of Roger’s fellow railroaders said it far better.
“Roger was a Roadmaster at CP who retired a few years ago from the Windy sub. He is sorely missed. Roger was good man. He was fair and decent, qualities missing in many of CP’s management. He treated our members with respect and gratitude for the work they did and always lent a helping hand to any who needed it,” said Roger’s friend on Facebook.
“Roger was a true railroader who taught, mentored and protected so many of our members that you never heard a bad word about him. Probably, because there weren’t any to say.
“We hated to see him leave our ranks when he stepped over to management decades ago and we were sorry to see him leave when he retired from there. But he kept in touch with a lot of us on social media, often with kind words and advice.
“Now we all say goodbye to him one last time. Safe travels, brother. You were loved and will not be forgotten.”
Amen to that.
I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with Roger three to four times every year in our annual hockey pools, along with 15 to 20 other hockey nuts from the valley (and beyond).
It is a unique brother and sisterhood that is more about sharing laughs and sparing our spouses from some hockey babble than winning cash or bragging rights.
At last year’s playoff pool, Roger brought me a present – an old railway notebook, with some details about track gangs in a Saskatchewan subdivision. He knew I had once worked in an engineering office in Winnipeg, that kept track of gangs, and gifted me this fascinating relic. That was Roger in a nutshell.
Roger won the playoff pool last year, too, come to think of it. He loaded up on Islanders, something he tended to do once his son started playing for the them, and it worked out well. Nice work 50-50. We’re gonna miss you bud.
On behalf of all of us in the always differently named pool – long may you roll Roger. We’ll keep a spot for you at the table in the spring.
And to Roger’s family and many, many friends – my deepest condolences.
Lead image from Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 71 (Invermere)