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Published: Monday, 9/22/2003

Man aided others with mental illness

LIBERTY CENTER - Roger W. Pennell, an advocate for the mentally ill, died of renal cancer yesterday at his home here. He was 59.

Mr. Pennell, who was diagnosed as bipolar in 1980, drew on his own experiences with mental illness to help others, his daughter Carolyn Vogtsberger said.

“He just wanted to help everybody and learn from his illness,” she said.

In the late 1980s, he graduated from Northwest State Community College in Archbold with a degree in social work.

Mr. Pennell was a member of the Four County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services for seven years. The group serves residents in Defiance, Fulton, Henry, and Williams counties.

He also led a local bipolar group and volunteered with Hands of Grace, a group of churches and agencies that assists the elderly and handicapped to live independently.

Mr. Pennell wrote poems about his experiences, his daughter said.

“We found two full books of poetry that he had written about being depressed and coming out of it,” she said.

Recently he worked for Quality Review Services, interviewing patients with mental illness to see what kind of services they needed, she said.

Mr. Pennell was born on April 9, 1944, in Delta, Ohio, to John and Rosena Pennell. The family soon moved to Waterville.

He graduated from Anthony Wayne High School in 1962, and married his high school sweetheart, the former Arlene Wielinski, on Nov. 28, 1962.

Mr. Pennell had been active in the FFA and farmed with his father until about 1984, when his mental illness prevented him from working.

“He knew he couldn't take care of the farm,” Mrs. Vogtsberger said.

Mr. Pennell enjoyed fishing and camping, playing cards, and cheering on his children's and grandchildren's sports teams.

“One of the last things he could really do was watch us win the state championship,” Mrs. Vogtsberger, the varsity softball coach at Anthony Wayne High School, said. Her daughter was one of the players on that team.

Mr. Pennell was a member of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, where he was an usher for many years.

Surviving are his wife, Arlene Pennell; his parents, John and Rosena Pennell; daughters, Carolyn Vogtsberger and Laurie Weirauch; sons, Robert and David Pennell; brothers, Larry, Robin, and Gary Pennell, and eight grandchildren.

Visitation is tomorrow from 2 to 9 p.m. at the Peinert Funeral Home in Whitehouse. Services will be Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

The family suggests tributes to the church.

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