Monday, December 24, 2001

Nina Nguyen wept as she touched a photo of John Rogers yesterday on a fence memorial at the intersection of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue.

Flag-waver collapses at
‘his’ street corner, dies

John Rogers 1946-2001


By B.J. Reyes

John Rogers, a champion of veterans' causes known throughout much of Honolulu as the friendly flag-waver who greeted morning commuters from across the Hawai'i Convention Center, died suddenly. He was of 55.

Rogers died Saturday after becoming ill while waving the flag at his customary spot on the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue, friends said.

The exact cause of death was not immediately known. The Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office was expected to conduct an autopsy today.

Friends said Rogers was taken to Straub Hospital and pronounced dead a short time later.

Rogers, a Vietnam veteran affectionately known as "the General," was remembered yesterday as a generous man who wanted to bring attention to the plight of underprivileged veterans.

"He would just help everybody," said Gary Dymally, who had known Rogers for about a year. "He would give you the shirt off his back."

Dymally was among a handful of friends who set up a memorial of flowers, flags and photographs of Rogers at his traditional street corner.

"Most people who have been passing by are just saying they're hurt," said friend Napoleon Arline. "Most people are shocked because they just saw him standing here (Saturday) morning."

Tina Chu and her 7-year-daughter, Allison, were among those who had been with Rogers on Saturday morning. Rogers had been trying to raise money for a planned tour that would bring his flag to all 50 states, Chu said.

"He looked kind of hot and tired, and he was out in the sun," she said. "I warned him about the sun, and he said, 'I'm feeling great.'

"Apparently, right after we left, he died."

Most of the friends gathered at the street corner yesterday had known Rogers through his work at 'Olelo, Oahu's community access cable channel.

Rogers had a monthly television show on 'Olelo that showcased community talent but mostly was devoted to veterans' affairs with informational segments and panel discussions, Chu said.

"The General's main mission was to not let America forget her veterans," said friend Arthur Bennett. "He also was very instrumental in directing veterans where to go to get any kind of assistance they needed."

Rogers, in an interview with the Star-Bulletin in June, said he began his street corner campaign on Jan. 7, 1998, to raise awareness about benefits for Hawaii war veterans.

"I feel that this flag, a piece of cloth that is red, white and blue, (represents) what our forefathers fought for with blood, sweat and tears for the freedom that we all enjoy today," he said.

Patriotism -- even before the tragedies of Sept. 11 -- was another reason he took to the street corner six days a week from 5 to 9 a.m.

"The general was here just because he was proud to be American, proud to be a service veteran and proud for this country," Dymally said. "He wanted to show and let everybody know he was proud."

Services were incomplete yesterday.

Friends, who plan to try and have the street corner dedicated in Rogers' name, said he did not have family in Hawaii and that relatives in Mississippi had been notified of his death.

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