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Covell Funeral Home

OBITUARY

Roger C. Birks

July 11, 1938January 7, 2021

Roger C. Birks, beloved father, grandfather, and uncle, died on January 7, 2021, from complications of a stroke. He was 82.

Roger was born on July 11, 1938, in Oak Park, Illinois, the second of two sons. He liked to remind people that his birthdate was later chosen to be the name of a popular convenience store chain. Roger spent his early years in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove, where his family had a farm. At one point, he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse where, he reported proudly, he was the smartest student in his class of one.

Summers saw young Roger hop the train that took him out of Chicago and all the way to green, bucolic northern Michigan. The day after Roger turned 11, the summer adventures north became permanent. The family of four relocated to the hamlet of Williamsburg in Michigan’s Grand Traverse County. His parents, Howard and Marguerite Birks, had relatives in the area, and Marguerite preferred the slower pace. From Williamsburg – which had two gas stations at the time and has none today – the Birks family moved to nearby, bustling Elk Rapids. There, the family operated the cherry farm that had been started by Marguerite’s mother. Roger liked to recall how he learned to swim at the dam in the river.

A standout high school athlete, Roger particularly loved and excelled at the game of baseball. He earned a baseball scholarship to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo but was sidelined by an injury in the first year. From Western Michigan, he enrolled in Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. He finished his college career there, earning a business degree with help from kind nuns who supported him. Roger made Grand Rapids his home for many years, having a family and eventually launching his own accounting business that he proudly and diligently maintained until his death.

Later, Roger lived in various northern Michigan cities, among them, Manistee. He enjoyed watching performances at the Ramsdell Theatre and was active in the Portage Point Inn Yacht Club. In 2019, he settled back in Williamsburg, the town of his youth, where he relished his view of Elk Lake.

While Roger at times could be difficult, he was also warm, thoughtful, and humorous. He was a man of many interests. He was a fan of the opera, race car driving, and sailing. In his 70s, he crossed Lake Michigan in a sailboat. At age 79, he traveled to England to trace his British roots. He had two beloved cats, Juggler and Lucy. He represented half of the two-member Whitewater Township Historic Society.

Roger’s survivors include five children: Thomas (Alicia); David (Erin); Brian (Mary); Theodore; and Melissa. He is also survived by five grandchildren: Madeline, Jack, and Trevor Birks and Evan and Tyler Birks. Other survivors include his niece, Karen Fasoli (Bill); nephew, Christopher (Amy) Birks; and several cousins. Roger was married twice and is survived by Mary Jo Haskins, the mother of his children, and Brenda Budesky.

Roger was preceded in death by his parents, Howard and Marguerite, and his brother, Howard.

On Thursday, January 14, there will be a visitation at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, 143 Charles Street in Elk Rapids, at 6 p.m. followed by a vigil at 7:30 p.m. On Friday, January 15, there will be a visitation at the church starting at noon followed by a Mass from the Order of Christian Funerals at 1 p.m. Funeral arrangements are provided by Covell Funeral Home. A burial service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to AC PAW, a Grand Traverse area non-profit animal rescue, or the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee, Michigan.

Services

  • Visitation

    Thursday, January 14, 2021

  • Vigil Service

    Thursday, January 14, 2021

  • Visitation

    Friday, January 15, 2021

  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Friday, January 15, 2021

Memories

Roger C. Birks

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Andrew Wilson

January 15, 2021

Dear Birks Cousins . . .

Please accept our sincerest condolences on the passing of your dad, the always-lively Roger Birks . . . or Uncle Roger to me. The obituary says that he could be difficult, but who can’t be difficult sometimes? In my view, he was an un-difficult, interesting storyteller; he was observant, charming, and super funny. I truly will miss him, and of course you will miss him — it is easy to miss and love a gentleman like your dad. Please be well. We are thinking of your dad. And we are thinking of you, too. Love, Cousin Andy and the Chicago Wilsons

Kathy Beer

January 14, 2021

You will be missed.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY