Roger Conrad Barbero, 85, of Atlantic, Iowa, passed away Thursday, April 27, 2023, at home. He was surrounded by family and friends as he faced a very aggressive pancreatic cancer.
Roger was born June 16, 1937, in the back of his grandparents’ tavern in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, IL, the son of Roger Warren and Margaret Ann (Toth) Barbero. He graduated from Fenger High School, Chicago, IL, with the Class of 1955 and proudly joined the United States Marine Corps in 1956 serving as a jet engine mechanic. Roger was united in marriage to JoAnn Wersching on August 6, 1960, at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Chicago, IL. In 1965, he graduated from the American Floral Art School but was never able to pursue that career due to a hand injury. The couple lived in the Chicago area until moving to the Cleveland suburb of University Heights, OH, in 1971 and Atlantic, IA, in 1980. He loved living in a rural community.
Roger was not afraid of work and often juggled more than one job at a time. He started young by cleaning spittoons and delivering beer in his little red wagon for his grandparents’ tavern. He used that same wagon to collect cardboard to recycle for cash. As money allowed, Roger began purchasing the tools and supplies needed to support his next money-making venture, wooden Christmas yard art. In his early teens he worked at the Home Store for $.25 per hour before starting at the Illinois Central Railroad in 1953, working fulltime while attending high school. In 1963, Roger left the railroad to drive a bus in downtown Chicago and was stabbed in the arm during an attempted robbery. After a second knife incident with the same bus patron, his doctor recommended he find a different job and with that he started at Ingersoll Steel. As the years went on, he worked for various other businesses including Chemco, Gould, Lozier Corporation, First Whitney Bank & Trust, Thomas Construction, and Breadeaux Pizza. He also roofed for many years on the side and served as a Cass County Veterans Affairs Commissioner until just days before his passing.
Extremely gifted in woodworking and refinishing, Roger attended countless auctions to find antiques to restore for himself and others, never being intimidated by a piece in disrepair. He also enjoyed tinkering with his childhood model trains and maintaining a very organized garage. Roger had a thirst for knowledge, always wanting to learn more about the military, trucking, farming, construction, business, and so on. Despite years of various pains and surgeries, he powered through with a thumbs up and would say he was “just fine”. Roger and JoAnn spent many years country dancing, visiting The Durham Museum and Lauritzen Gardens (especially at Christmas), traveling the United States, cheering on grandkids at their various activities, and volunteering at the Cass County Fair food stand and T-Fred Memorial Golf Tournament. He will be remembered for his Easter bread, carrying on JoAnn’s Chex Mix and Christmas cookie traditions, the stories and memories he loved to share, and being “a little ornery” while adamantly claiming to be “Shy Quiet Roger”. A few of his favorite things included watching Notre Dame football, “OP” beer (other people’s), burgers at The Barn Burner, and anything lemon – especially ice cream and Deb’s lemon meringue pie.
He is survived by his daughters, Deanna Gammell, Christine (Preston) Nelson, Melanie (Darrin) Petty, and Caryn (Kevin) Just; his grandchildren, Kate Hepler (Frazer Werts), Laena (Austin) Sonntag, Hannah (Lane) Ring, Madeline Nelson (Graydon Schmidt), and Grant Petty; his great-grandchildren, McKenna Nelson, Jaxon Hepler, Holland Hepler, Bennett Sonntag, and Colby Sonntag; sister, Irene (Arnie) Brothers; sister-in-law, Carolyn Wersching; lifelong friend and “brother”, Wally Mader; nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends. Roger looked forward to meeting a new great-grandchild, Baby Ring, in September 2023.
Roger was welcomed to heaven by his wife, JoAnn; parents, Warren and Margaret Barbero; parents-in-law, Joseph and Margaret (Sosnowski) Wersching, Jr.; son-in-law, Don Gammell; grandson, Trevor Frederickson; sisters, Doris (Harold) Seeman and Carol Anderson; brother-in-laws, Jim Chiolero and Allen Wersching; nieces, Tracy Seeman, Melissa Brothers, and Michelle Brothers; and nephew, Matthew Brothers.
In lieu of flowers, it was Roger’s wish memorials be made to the family to donate to some of his favorite organizations. Memorials may be mailed in c/o Melanie Petty, 56535 Jasper Road, Atlantic, IA 50022.
Visitation with the family will begin at 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Atlantic, followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m. A luncheon will be held at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church Parish Center following the mass.
A private family burial will be held at a later date at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Adel, IA.
Arrangements are handed with the Schmidt Family Funeral Home of Atlantic, IA. Condolences may be left online at ww.schmidtfamilyfh.com.