ROLLIE SPRAGUE - (February 7, 1941 --- November 23, 2003)
Tottenville High Graduate 1958
|A very special person left our lives in November of
last year. I think many of us have great stories of his quick wit and
This tribute was written by one of Rollie's special friends, Charlie (Chuck) Petersen.
On November 23, 2003 we lost a great friend and classmate, Rollie Sprague who fought a two-year battle with prostate cancer. His funeral, held at the "Bedell" funeral parlor on Amboy Road, was like a class reunion with a multitude of old classmates and South Shore natives coming to pay their respects and to reminisce about their great memories of Rollie. It was both a sad and inspiring occasion to see how many people had been touched by his life and deeds.
Rollie was born in the Conference House in Tottenville where his parents were caretakers. He went to PS1 grammar school; attended St Paul's Methodist Church in Tottenville and was a Boy Scout in Troop 21. At Tottenville High, he was our G.O. President, was on our Varsity baseball and basketball teams, and was a member of many clubs and outside organizations. We all probably have our special memories of Rollie during those great years. Our 1958 Purple Parrot Yearbook shows Rollie as "Most Popular," an honor that he continued to earn throughout his life.
After graduating from high school, Rollie attended Wagner College, first on a full-time basis and later as an evening student, eventually earning a BS in Business. In 1962 Rollie joined the New York Police Department and was initially assigned to a Precinct in Manhattan. Over his career he rose to the rank of Detective and spent his later years in the 122nd Precinct on Staten Island. He retired in 1980 to give full attention to his second career, a Screen Printing Business.
Rollie purchased the old Staten Island Transcript building on the corner of Arthur Kill Road and Johnson Avenue in Tottenville and relocated his screen-printing operation from his garage and cellar, where he previously operated on a part-time basis. In the 23 years that followed, Sprague Screen Graphics grew to become a major source on the Island for quality "T" shirts, signs and other screen-printed products. The shop also became a regular stop for many old and new friends who would visit regularly to share the latest jokes or just come to get the benefit of Rollie's upbeat personality. In spite of having a busy business schedule, he always had time to visit with the next person who came through his door. Even after he was diagnosed with cancer he continued in the business because he found it an enjoyable diversion from his health condition. In early 2003 his declining health caused him to sell the business.
Throughout his life Rollie continued his participation in athletic activities that we all remember him for in High School. He was an active tennis player, golfer and runner. He trained for and participated in several road races and was a two-time finisher of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. Rollie also won some awards for his golfing skills. He enjoyed traveling and went on many trips and cruises with his family and friends. Many of his travels were with classmates from his years at Tottenville High. He and his wife, Linda were also great dance partners and would never pass up an opportunity to enjoy a good old Lindy.
Rollie may be known best for his upbeat personality, friendliness and his compassion for those in need. A good example of his compassion was his reaction to the events of 9/11. Like all of us, he was deeply saddened by the event and searched for a way to express his support. Putting his talent to action he developed a very captivating "T" shirt that depicted a fireman kneeling in the rubble either to pray or just stooping from exhaustion. Rollie printed hundreds of those shirts and gave them to fire departments around the city. Later he sold them at cost and gave the proceeds to various 9/11 support organizations.
Rollie lived all but the last few years of his life in Tottenville. In 2000 he and Linda moved to a new home at the Renaissance in Manchester, NJ. There they enjoyed golf and many of the other amenities the community provides. As with their previous Tottenville home, the new home became the site of many great parties.
Rollie leaves behind his wife of 42 years, Linda, three children; Jeffrey, Kirsten, and Matthew. He is also "Pop-Pop" to five grandchildren; Matthew Jr., Casey, Madison, C.J., and Mackenzie. He also leaves behind a vast number of friends and a multitude of wonderful memories. We will all miss this special guy.
**note from Cookie
I remember one snowy day when we all arrived in the auditorium to find there were so few teachers we were going to have to just sit there all day. As seniors, we had other ideas. A great many of us decided to leave. After we left, we had to decide what on earth to do for the next six hours. (Those were the days you wouldn't admit to your folks that you cut classes or there would be hell to pay, so we would have to go home on our regular bus). Rollie lived in Tottenville, so some of us decided to go to his house to play poker. We had a great time. Rollie was always a quick wit and pleasant guy to be with.
The following day our bubble burst. Everyone who left were suspended from the basketball team, cheerleading squad, as well as five out of six G. O. officers, who were asked to step down. There was only one officer left. The rest of us were subject to the wrath of our parents when they received notice of our departure. I do believe, after many conferences, we were all cleared of our terrible offenses.