Roger Allan Drobney

September 6, 1941November 14, 2021
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Depending on how you knew him and when, the various sides of Roger might look quite different. You might have known him as a driven businessman, an intuitive designer of custom homes, an adrenaline fueled adventurer or a generous soul. He was all of those things.

Although he started simply, in the farming town of Pocahontas Iowa, Roger’s adventures started early. He kept many pets, including dogs, crows, squirrels, skunks, opossums and his favorite, a raccoon that he taught to sit in a chair, drink from a cup and eat at the kitchen table with him. In high school, he built a kit car, welding up a frame, scavenging parts at the local junk yard and tearing down local country roads. He loved dancing and early Rock and Roll, and he combined those passions to become Iowa State Dance Champion in high school. Starting in the eighth grade, he worked at a nearby steak house, and put himself through college as a cook and manager there. He graduated high school in a class of 26, where he talked a few other kids into teaching themselves higher mathematics and physics as prerequisites for college.

He attended college at Iowa State University, where he learned he was in way over his head with his small town education, but he buckled down, caught up and graduated with an electrical engineering degree. Roger lost his own father during his final year of college, so he scrapped his plan to join the Peace Corps for two years and dove into the working world just in time to join in the heat of the Space Race, working for Motorola Laboratories on the Ranger and Saturn Projects that brought back the first close-up pictures of the moon.

When he tired of being a “cog in the machine” of huge engineering projects, he took a job with IBM to sell main frame computers, and moved to Lansing, Michigan. He liked to recall that he sold so many computers in his first year (including one to Dart container to help with their first big expansion) that they doubled his quota the next, prompting him to venture off on his own to start a building company, which became HDI Builders, along with two of his colleagues from IBM. He taught himself design and became one of the premier designers of custom homes in the Lansing area, where he built “over 1,500 homes” and designed many more.

Roger believed in working hard and playing harder. Throughout his life he was an avid outdoorsman, hunting, fishing, backpacking, canoeing and maintaining his personal 80 acre “park and wildlife preserve” in Williamston. He was a sky diver (including stunt diving for the Ripcord television show in the early 60’s), a pilot (he flew ultralight aircraft, gliders and aerobatic airplanes), a scuba diver (he loved to tell stories of spear-fishing giant groupers off the coast of California when he lived in Santa Monica), a skier (he bought a condo in Vail just after it opened and skied there almost every year) a traveler (he met his wife while working on a design project in Thailand), a car aficionado (He went to every car show he could find and owned many sports cars over the years).

Roger believed education was his ticket away from simple beginnings and small town life and, remembering his struggle, he attempted to help others reach that same goal. He funded the college educations of many local kids over the years, with varying degrees of success, but after spending time in Thailand with his wife Ning Nong, they began supporting the education of a few kids there, which developed into support for an entire orphanage and education scholarships that continue today. Over the years, they also sponsored international exchange students, opening their home to several kids from around the world while they attended Williamston High School and MSU.

Roger is survived by his two sons, Chris and Ben, his three grandchildren Josh, Michael and Remy and his loving and dedicated wife, Ning Nong, to whom we will be forever grateful for adding many wonderful years to his life. She was his rock and he loved her with all his heart.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the DROBNEY family.


  • Ben Drobney, Pallbearer
  • Chris Drobney, Pallbearer
  • Kulphanin Saenguthai, Pallbearer
  • Patrick McMahon, Pallbearer
  • Gavin Watthayu, Pallbearer
  • Sasinun Kollenbaum, Pallbearer


  • Visitation

    Tuesday, November 30, 2021

  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Tuesday, November 30, 2021


  • Committal Service

    Tuesday, November 30, 2021


Roger Allan Drobney

have a memory or condolence to add?

Sandy Boyd

December 1, 2021

Years ago, Roger and Ning Nong were part of many holidays at our home. With all of our grandkids at the house for holidays they always enjoyed playing with the kids. A favorite picture from those times is one with Ning Nong smiling at the bottom of a big pig pile with all the kids on top of her.
Roger had a wealth of knowledge of many things and shared many stories with us. My mother was also from Iowa and loved hearing his stories about Iowa. Those are memories that I will have of Roger forever. Always a kid at heart.

Michalyn Bethke

November 30, 2021

What a humble gentleman. Roger joined our prayergroup ,one day , at. St. Martha . He knew another friend in the group ,.....Inge invited him to pray with us. We were in awe , as he shared with us a little of his life , including the joy of his relationship with a dear person living in the Far East , where he was , guessed it ,.....building. How do you communicate with someone , culturally , linguistically so different . They managed , with the help of a small child,.... Only more recently have we learned about the great diversity , and adventure in. Roger’s long and active , creative life .
We extend our deepest condolences to Roger’s beautiful wife and family .,.....and ask Our Lord to have mercy on his merciful soul, for an eternity of GREAT ADVENTURE . LORD, BLESS ROGER WITH GREAT JOY .

Alicia Naval

November 30, 2021

Daddy Roger was always so kind and generous, I will remember his "Hey Kid" every morning and our drive to school, our cinema nights at the Tv-room and all the fascinating stories he used to tell us when he was young. He taught me so much about humbleness and how to work hard to achieve your goals in life. I really learned so much from him and still admire him for all the things he did. -Thank you mommy Ning Nong and Yai for bringing love to him and everyone around, I love you so much always!

Mike Cosgrove

November 29, 2021

I met Roger in the early 70's doing mortgage construction inspections. I looked forward to seeing what new design or floor plan he had created. Above and beyond conversations about homes and construction it was always enjoyable to visit with Roger. I wish that we
had more visits. As my great aunt would say, "They might make them as good as Roger
but they don't make them any better!"

Anna Zim

November 29, 2021

Thank you for the text which made me think of all the moments he told me those stories while sitting in his favorite chair in the living room, swimming through the pond (at least to the fake duck in the middle) or cuddling in his tv-room. Thank you for welcoming me to your home first in 2011, to your heart and your family, daddy! and mom P’NingNong! Love to all of you – and thank you for everything you have contributed to Roger’s happiness

Peter Groff

November 29, 2021

I remember when my wife, Roger's aunt Evelyn was asked to drive his homebuilt car from Iowa city to Pocahontas. No brakes or power steering. It was an experience she often talked about. He was very inventive person. May he rest in peace.

Katherine Kress

November 29, 2021

Papa D definitely made his mark on the world, and on me personally. I often recount the stories of adventures he, Chris and I had to family and friends....from helping me get certified to scuba dive in Phuket, to ordering the food "hot" in Bangkok and exclaiming how good it was despite his face turning purple and sweat pouring down his forehead, to exploring Hermosa beach, and making an adventure out of everyday life. He always had a great personal story to tell and brought a smile.

I don't see the saying "Rest in Peace" apply to Papa D....rather, I see him organizing the angels for some great escapade in parts of the universe he has yet to explore. So "Rest in Adventure" Papa D...we'll be expecting a grand tour when our time is up!

Lorene Kappler

November 28, 2021

I was privileged to meet Roger when the Drobney’s decided to host an exchange student, Anna from Germany. They were so warm and generous to her providing an amazing exchange opportunity. They also hosted a fabulous Youth for Understanding orientation at their home preparing quite a luncheon feast. Their love and support of high school exchange and college students was overwhelming. Sympathy and blessing to his family.

Steve and Cathy Purdy

November 27, 2021

We first got to know Roger during the annual home tours in the 1970s where he always presented the most interesting homes. When it came time for us to build he was, of course, our first choice. Later, when we built our second home we were lucky to do so on a corner of his park-like property near Williamston. A few years later Roger and Ning Nong built their dream home on the pond in the center of that beautiful 80 acres, so we became neighbors as well. His profound aesthetic senses are reflected in that eclectic home and his sculptor’s touch tending the meadows and woods. Roger was also the respected and loved patriarch of an extended family and a remarkably generous patron. We will all miss him and remember is generosity.

Joe Libby

November 26, 2021

As time passes we all must come to terms with the moment we transition from this reality to the next. For those of us that remain behind in this existence we experience this moment as loss, a hole in the fabric of our lives. Roger was more than a friend, a member of this earthly family, from the late sixties on we shared ideals, sometimes goals, thoughts about every area of life, adventure, politics, relationships, family, every area of our being as experienced by the passage of time, always mindful of the fact our time here would actually be but brief. Rogers faith was always expressed in terms of acceptance that a living God had prepared a place for him as he transferred from this reality to the next. The Bible speaks of Jesus Fathers house have long many mansions, no doubt Roge has many ideas about designs for those mansions.


Cut Cake Not WRISTS!


Just one more car.... I promise.


Don't worry, I'm drinking vodka :)


Work hard now and sleep later in my Rolls Royce!


Are you serious?