NORTH KINGSTOWN – In April, in Overland Park, Kansas, the town where Doug Roth grew up, the city council named a basketball court in his honor.
At the age of eight, he started organizing basketball and baseball leagues for neighborhood kids whose parents couldn’t afford the fees of the mainstream youth leagues.
According to an online report on KccommunityNews.com, Bill Bins, who suggested the honor, said of that long-ago league: “The whole thing was his push. He was the commissioner. He started formalizing sandlot games, and he would keep all the records and stats. In the spring, everybody waited for Doug to get things started.”
His friends approached the city council about honoring Doug by renaming the park, partly because they felt so helpless at learning of his fight against a rare cancer. The park was something positive they could do.
On June 11, Douglas S. Roth, of Country Hill Lane in North Kingstown, lost his battle at the shockingly young age of 45. He had most recently been employed as a senior marketing director at SAP Global, had served on the school committee and had written a twice-monthly column called “Along the Way,” for the Standard-Times.
Although he was not paid, Doug told staff members how much writing it had meant to him as he was embroiled in physical strife.
Some topics, which focused on the doings of the school department, gave those upon whom he cast the spotlight fits. Other writing, such as his appreciation of the late Dr. Muriel Camarra, was nothing short of tender.
Among Doug’s columns that were consensus favorites were those about family life. One that appeared last month, describing the decision to get the puppy his kids had wanted for years – despite the uncertainty of his future, his limited mobility and the presence of an ancient cat – was delightful.
The column also spoke volumes about a dad’s dedication to providing something warm and vibrant to love when he had gone.
Last December, Doug wrote lovingly of teaching his son how to drive. When Brian was born, he wrote, he’d made such commitments as teaching him to hit and throw, hate the New York Yankees and he vowed to provide braces, if he needed them, which he had. After keeping those promises, he added driving to the list.
Doug had known then that his war with cancer was unlikely to end well, yet he found joy in setting out on this new adventure with his son – and taking our readers along for the ride. His written recollections of his own early experiences behind the wheel were hilarious, as were his rambles down the road with Brian.
“The so-called ‘experts’ on the subject of student driving say teaching your kid to drive doesn’t need to be a stressful experience,” he wrote. “I think whoever says this has never actually taught their own kid to do it.”
He described the real challenges of being in the passenger seat with a young driver: not screaming in terror when he turns right on Route 1 without looking left; not flinching when he tries to park for the first time.
He ended with this: “My promise to the people of North Kingstown is that we will iron out the whole looking left issue before he gets his license in June.”
One of six children, Doug received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.
When he learned the Overland Park basketball court had been named in his honor, Doug e-mailed his pals, saying, “That park, that school system and good people who cut me a break here and there helped make me a decent grown-up. I know none of that makes me worthy of something special, but I want the town to know that they helped me, and I want them to know just how much that place means to me.”
Hundreds of people had signed a petition favoring renaming Cherokee Park.
During his illness, Doug had used mental imaging therapy, often employed as a device to replace pain with soothing thoughts. He wrote:
“The only place in my mind I ever could find true peace is the basketball court at Cherokee Park. I close my eyes and I am there, healthy, strong and happy. I don’t know how else to describe it but that park is an extension of home for me and is in many ways what I hope heaven includes.”
Doug is survived by his wife, Donna, and his children, Brian and Jennifer. A Mass of Christian Burial was held for him yesterday.
During this week’s town council meeting, a moment of silence was observed. President Liz Dolan said, “Doug was a passionate man. Doug was passionate about the quality of education here in town. Most of all, Doug was passionate about his family and tonight our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
A scholarship fund benefitting North Kingstown High School students has been established in his memory. Donations may be sent to Douglas S. Roth Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Citizens Bank, 1300 Ten Rod Rd., North Kingstown, RI 02852.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .