LAUREL HILL — Considered a hard-working individual by those who knew him, St. Andrews University landscaper Nick Rogers’s vocation was as much a passion to him as his primary hobby.
“He taught himself all of the technical names in landscaping,” said Robert Currie, a longtime friend of Rogers. “He could just create beautiful designs with plants.”
In 2010, Rogers was honored for 25 years of service to the university — which he regarded as “an art form, enjoyment, and hobby in itself” — and retired not long after. He died on July 17 at the age of 73.
Rogers is also remembered for his skill on the piano, which he fine-tuned in Californian cocktail lounges and then put to use playing at Laurel Hill Baptist Church and with local groups like the Heartland Band and the Cavaliers. He had no formal musical training, but perhaps inherited an ear for a tune from his grandfather, a church music teacher.
“Nick couldn’t read a note of music,” remembered Sunny, Rogers’ wife of 42 years. “The way you had to do it was hand something to him and sing a couple of notes of it, and he could play it.”
With Rogers and bassist Earl Burns of Hamlet, Currie completed the “Nick Rogers Trio,” which entertained the elderly and played at wedding receptions.
“We played the big band songs from the 1930s and the 1940s, just the old songs from way back when and the old gospel songs,” said Currie. “We just did it because we loved music and we loved people.”
In an interview with The Laurinburg Exchange, Rogers once said “I would probably play if I had to pay somebody to listen.”
At home, Rogers kept elderly neighbors supplied with firewood and groceries, and according to his wife never could refuse a plea for help.
“Whoever called him, for a funeral, for a church service, for senior citizens, for anything, he dropped what he was doing and he told me, ‘I’ve got to do this’,” she said.
With a passion for plants that overstepped the 9-to-five, Rogers ran a landscaping business on the side — at one point working on the grounds of the Holiday Inn in Dillon, South Carolina — and even after his retirement maintained a large garden plot with his son Mark.
“He could plant a garden every year and feed the community,” said Currie. “He had a produce stand, but he gave away more than he sold. He was one of those give-you-the-shirt-off-of-his-back people.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.