Longtime Sterlington residents Gene and Betty Roswell continue to contribute to the community beyond their lifetimes.
Through a donation from the Roswell Foundation, two members of the Sterlington High senior class (one male, one female) will receive a $4,000 scholarship. The first scholarships will be awarded this year and the program will continue for years to come.
Funds from the Roswell Foundation have already been applied to build a batting cage for the Sterlington High baseball team.
Gene Roswell grew up in Sterlington. Attending Ouachita Parish High School (Sterlington did not have its own high school at the time), he played football and baseball for the Lions.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Gene married Betty and the couple made their home in Monroe for a short time before settling in Sterlington.
For years, Gene remained involved in sports, officiating football, basketball and baseball. He and his wife were avid bowlers.
Sadly, the couple's lives were filled with anguish as none of their three children reached adulthood. Chucky, their oldest, was killed in a hunting accident at age 13. Nine months later, 11-year-old Debbie, perished in a tractor accident. Their youngest child, Patricia, was born with a muscle-related disease and died at age 2.
Combating their heartache, the Roswell's channeled their energy toward helping others.
"Mr. Gene and Mrs. Betty were the ones that if anything tragic happened in the community, they were the first ones there," said the Rev. Kurt Auger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmerville. "They had been through so much tragedy and hardship, they knew what it was like."
Rev. Auger grew close to the Roswell's during his time as pastor of Paron Baptist Church in Sterlington.
With no children of their own, the Roswell's reached out to the youth of the community.
"They loved kids and they especially loved children's athletics," Rev. Auger said.
Gene was employed as a maintenance supervisor at the IMC plant, while Betty was a homemaker.
Upon retiring, Gene received a check for $187,000. Three months later, the check was still in the envelope.
In the mid-2000s, the aging couple's health began to deteriorate. Gene was badly injured in a car wreck from which he never fully recovered. While Gene was convalessing, Betty also went into rehab due to a series of ailments. While in rehab, she died of a massive heart attack in 2007.
Gene lived three years after his wife's death, before passing away on March 23, 2003 at the age of 83.
Despite all of his misfortune, Gene Roswell died with a small fortune.
Acting on Rev. Auger's advice, Gene met with Randy Kirby of Merrill Lynch in Monroe. Relying on Kirby's financial savvy, Gene invested his money wisely. Once removed from the envelope, the $187,000 shot up like Jack's beanstalk.
Page 2 of 2 - "All of a sudden, he had a million dollars," Auger said.
Following the losses of Betty and an older brother in Florida, Gene had no surviving immediate relatives.
"Betty was an only child," Rev. Auger said. "When Gene and Betty got old, they had nobody left."
Not long after Betty's death, Gene appointed Rev. Auger as his power of attorney. With Gene's approval, the Roswell Foundation began to take shape.
"When Mr. Gene passed away, he still had a lot of money," Rev. Auger said. "He left several hundred thousand dollars in a charitable trust fund."
Upon Gene's death, the Roswell Foundation made a donation to the Shriner's Hospital in Memphis.
Locally, Paron Baptist Church, Sterlington High and youth sports programs continue to benefit from the Foundation.
"The money will last until Jesus comes or the stock market crashes," Rev. Auger said. "Mr. Gene and Mrs. Betty will continue to impact lives and be a part of this community. It's a testimony of their faith and perseverance."
Through many tears, toils and snares, the Roswell's remained steadfast. As a result, they continue to be a blessing to others, particularly to the youth of Sterlington.
Summing it up best, Rev. Auger said, "I guess you could say it's a sad story with a happy ending."