XENIA — Friends are remembering a fixture in the community, branded by his jokes and his desire to help out anybody in need.
And Roger Shambaugh had many, many friends.
At age 80, the long-time Xenian died May 24.
Born in Xenia on March 14, 1939, the only child of Margaret (Chittum) and Horace Shambaugh, he graduated from Spring Valley High School in 1957.
In a 2017 interview with the Gazette, Shambaugh said his dedication to community service began in his childhood home.
“My mother was a good Christian woman,” Shambaugh said. “She raised us in the church … But my father was disabled. He was stricken with a strange and unexplained illness when we were young.”
With his father unable to work, Shambaugh recalled how area churches helped out his family with food and other items.
That act of kindness never left his memory.
“I remember thinking to myself: ‘You know what … I am going to do this’,” he said in the interview. “When I got older I started paying it forward on my own.”
And he never stopped.
Over the years, Shambaugh and his wife, Geraldine Hayes — or “Gerri,” who died in 2017 — delivered countless meals and Christmas food baskets. They visited needy families and orphaned children. They got involved in prison ministries, and helped out at homeless shelters.
“I loved Roger because he was so genuine and real,” Greene County Commissioner Dick Gould said. “The first time I ever got to know him I took a Christmas contribution to his house for his Christmas collection that he was doing. He wasn’t home but his wife Gerri took me in and was pointing out all the different spots around the house — ‘This is for this family, this is for that family’ — she knew all about the families. They weren’t well off themselves yet they were collecting for others.”
State Rep. Rick Perales, who knew the Shambaughs for more than a decade, said their deaths are great losses to Greene County.
“They were stalwarts of the community,” Perales said. “Roger was a very unique person — very conservative, very religious. He would give the shirt off his back to help somebody in need. He was always there for people … Roger was a person who saw where there was a need in the community and would pull everyone together and raise money to help a family out.”
Shambaugh shared his faith with anyone who would listen. On air, or just in passing.
He co-hosted a show on WGNZ Radio with Kenny Shiveley from 1990 to 2015 before starting his own show, “Gospel for Today,” on Dayton Spiritual Television. Last year, he celebrated his 25 years of playing Gospel music, sharing testimonies, and interviewing all sorts of people — from entertainers and musicians to politicians and sports stars.
“Dayton Access Television was very sad to learn of Roger Shambaugh’s passing,” DATV Program Director Melissa Constantine said. “He was always pleasant. When he came in, he always had to tell one of his jokes. Sometimes it was during those times when we needed a good laugh and he always had one.”
Constantine, who knew him for more than 25 years, said the news was heartbreaking.
“I’m close with all of my members, but he’s one of my favorites. Those times when I want to call him, I’ll have to second guess myself,” she said. “All of us here will always think of him with great love.”
Shambaugh dabbled in other things off the air, too. He once ran, at age 33, for state representative in 1974. He also sold alkaline water systems and Shaklee products.
But perhaps the biggest part of Shambaugh’s story is Gerri. The two met at a local bowling alley and married in 1971 after dating for several weeks.
“It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you — it’s what you leave behind you when you go,” Shambaugh once told the Gazette.
He leaves behind community members who are better off because of him, as well as his family — children Vicki (Rodney) Neff and Randy (Teresa) Shambaugh, stepson Glenn (Kim) Gibson, and three grandchildren.
Friends can rest assured that Roger’s legacy lives on — and more importantly, he is now reunited with Gerri.