Created: May 25, 2022 07:52
A lifelong hospitality worker who became a hotel manager at a time when few women could be found in the trade was also a trade unionist and a stalwart of the Progressive Labor Party.
A lifelong proud Somerset resident, Viola ‘Pinky’ Rogers got into the hospitality business in her twenties at The Reefs in Southampton, having initially worked at the Simmons Ice Cream Factory, among others.
At The Reefs, she went from housekeeping to training as the hotel’s only female short-term cook in her class.
In 1972, the hotel’s chef, Rainer Maier, left to join the newly opened Fairmont Southampton Hotel and encouraged Mrs. Rogers to follow him.
One of his first jobs there was baking a cassava pie for 200 employees in the hotel’s new giant ovens.
In addition to finding work at the resort for her family and friends, she became a shop steward at the hotel for the Bermuda Industrial Union and at one point was responsible for approximately 1,000 employees.
She had already become active with the PLP when the island’s first political party formed in 1963 and campaigned for the party’s parliamentary candidates in the West End.
Mr Rogers married Calypso singer George Rogers in 1945 and the couple had four children: the late Anthea Rogers Earles, Georgia Rogers Symonds, Johnathan Rogers and Mikail Abdur-Rashid.
Ms Symonds said her mother was Bermuda’s only black chef at the Southampton Princess, as it was then known, where she worked with guest workers from “various walks of life and countries”.
“She was known for her compassion, ability to listen and give sound advice, patience, attention to detail and kindness which served her well in her work as a mentor and trainer.
“I believe it was these skills and her empathetic concern for justice and fairness, gleaned from her previous political experience, that won her the post of Shop Steward, a title she retained until the end of her term. .”
Ms. Rogers retired from the hotel in 1987.
Ms Symonds said her mother was among many women who joined the PLP to “fight for the rights of black people to stand up against injustice and prejudice”.
“These women paved the way for early politicians by sponsoring and canvassing them in their constituencies where they saw firsthand what prejudice looked like.
“Yet they were steadfast and proud to work alongside their politicians such as Eugene Cox, Walter Roberts, Walter Lister and later Dennis Lister.
“At that time, Sandys politicians operated as one unit.
“Whether you represent Sandys South or Sandys North, they all worked as a team.”
Her half-century of service to the PLP was recognized with a gold pin and certificate in 2013, when Ms Rogers was among 50 rank-and-file members honored at a celebration of the party’s 50th anniversary.
One of the accomplishments of which Ms. Rogers is most proud was taking a psychology course at Bermuda College later in her life.
She also took a computer course, followed by sign language lessons.
In 1990, she signed up as a volunteer with the Rape Crisis Center hotline, now the Women’s Resource Centre.
After graduating from a counseling course at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, Ms. Rogers received calls from women in crisis hooked up to her home phone by the police.
Viola Rogers shows a photo from her first day at the Fairmont Southampton at the Princess’s 50th birthday reunion in 2014 (file photo)
Mr and Mrs Rogers were deeply committed to the church and attended God’s First Church on Sound View Road in Somerset, where Mrs Rogers served as Usher, Deacon and sang in the Choice, as well as joining the dance group “glam divas”. .
Mr. Rogers died in 2013.
Ms Rogers was also a founding and regular member of the St James Stage Group, which held annual fundraising shows in Somerset Church Hall.
Shortly before Ms Rogers died, she was able to meet her brother Charles Goins, who had left the island as a young child to live in the United States.
The two came into contact through social media, a genealogy website, and the efforts of their family.
After living apart, the two were able to talk to each other remotely several times and reconnect.
A celebration of Ms Rogers’ life was held on May 17 at the First Church of God in Somerset.
Ms Symonds said: “The service was joyful and spiritually uplifting – and so representative of the godly life she lived.”
Viola Gwendolyn Elizabeth Rogers, hotel worker, shop steward and Progressive Labor Party stalwart, was born February 15, 1924. She died May 7, 2022, aged 98.