Rev. Ann Calvin (“Cally”) Rogers-Witte (June 25, 1945 – November 12, 2019), a native child of Cocoa, Florida, passed away peacefully at the age of 74 after bravely battling complications from a sudden infection.
Cocoa was home, the place where Cally spent both her formative and final years. But she was really a person of the world; a global minister who traveled extensively throughout a three-quarter-century life that was, at core, one great and continual act of service.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Cally exemplified this principle, practicing what she preached, at every turn. She loved fiercely, even those with whom she vehemently disagreed. She had a rare ability to see everyone’s basic goodness and humanness. She never knew how not to bring her full self to every interaction – and she didn’t wait until her final moments to tell friends and family how much she cherished them. Those who survive her knew what they meant to her. Her life is thus not to be viewed in accomplishments spanning years, but rather by lives deeply touched throughout a series of genuine and generous moments.
A graduate of Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, Cally received an M.A. in Religion from Yale Divinity School and a Master of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. Cally was ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1973. Before retiring in recent years, she was Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive of Global Ministries for the UCC for six years; and the UCC’s Southwest Conference Minister for 10 years. Prior to that, she was pastor of Community UCC in Raleigh, North Carolina for 18 years. In the 1970s, she worked as a Regional Associate with the former Office for Church Life and Leadership. Cally attended multiple international assemblies of the World Council of Churches; and was the director of Christian education at the American Church in Paris, France in the 1960s.
Cally chaired the UCC Insurance Board and served as a trustee of UCC-related Elon University in North Carolina. She also served terms as president of the New Mexico Council of Churches and the North Carolina Council of Churches, as well as a board member of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service.
Throughout her professional and personal life, Cally had a clear compass pointing in the direction of her core values of kindness and love. Civic engagement, grandkids, sunsets, sailing; these were a few of her favorite things. Tender yet tenacious about righting injustices, she will forever remain an inspiration and aspiration for her family, friends, colleagues, and congregants.
Her husband of 46 years, Dr. Frank Rogers-Witte, and children Mary Ann Ciciarelli and Beth Garriott, were by her side as she peacefully left this world. She is also survived by sons-in-law Christian Ciciarelli and Omar Garriott; and grandchildren Evelyn Ann Ciciarelli (5) and Amaya Ann Garriott (7). She joins her first grandchild Lee Ciciarelli, who passed away on November 24, 2015 at 5 years old from Timothy Syndrome and who ran straight to her in heaven; her father, Dr. Lee Rogers, Jr., a surgeon at the same Rockledge Regional Medical Center (then-Wuesthoff Memorial) where Cally spent her final days; and her mother, Ann Rogers, who also passed on at the Center 30 years ago.
May we all attempt to live by her model of earnest moments that connect rather than divide. In a 2010 interview for the UCC, Cally prophetically said: “The experience of years makes me less likely to predict what’s going to happen next…(but) there is tremendous value in knowing we’re part of something that’s historical as well as global, connected to people around the world. That’s my particular passion.”
A service to celebrate Cally’s life will be held on Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 10 a.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cocoa, Florida.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Rev. Ann Calvin Rogers-Witte Memorial Fund at any of the following three organizations: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cocoa, Florida (mailed to the church at 4 Church Street, Cocoa, FL 32922); the UCC Wider Church Ministries, or the Timothy Syndrome Alliance (TSA).