SF Church Helps Elderly Man Achieve Life's Goal

Roger Creet is 84 years old. He has lived in three different countries on two different continents. He has multiple post-graduate degrees.

He owns but a single photograph.


The picture is of himself, and his late wife, Adelaide, on their wedding day. Roger is wearing a tweed jacket and striped tie. Adelaide is in a dark blouse fastened at the collar by a gold brooch. With their matching jet-black hair they make a striking couple.

"We married later in life," Roger says, "so we never had children."

What Roger and Adelaide did have, however, was a shared passion for learning and for books, both working as librarians at various spots around the Bay Area.

Sadly though, for Roger, Adelaide died suddenly one day in 1999. She was 70 years old. 

"It was December 21st," Roger recalls. "I had gone for a few hours to do some shopping. When I returned I thought she might have been sleeping, but she had died while I was gone."

Roger was devastated. His grief was only compounded when, not long after his wife's death, he suffered an accident that left him physically incapacitated.

Roger has spent the past 14 years living in nursing homes, currently at Menlo Park's Atherton Healthcare.

His mind, however, remains sharp, and often dwells these days on what Roger considers one of his greatest regrets in life.

"He still bears a lot of anger about how it all happened," says Pastor Susan Strouse. She met Roger roughly a decade ago when she was chaplain at the nursing home where Roger was living.

It was then that Roger shared his story with the pastor.

He told her how in the mid-1980's, while living in the Bay Area, he was pursuing a PhD at Great Britain's University of Lancaster. He had chosen Lancaster because his particular field of study was centered on one, very particular, segment of British history: pawnbroking in Victorian London.

"Pawnbrokers were the sole source of credit for working-class Londoners of the time. It was an integral part of society," Roger says. He also felt there had been very little scholarship done on the subject.

Over the course of three years Roger, with the help of Adelaide, worked on his thesis. 

They stayed in London for months at a time researching old maps, directories, trade journals, and newspaper accounts.

When Roger was done his thesis, Pawnbroking and the Working Class in Victorian London (1850-1914), was 390 pages of thoughtfully researched, documented, and footnoted scholarship.

It was the pinnacle of Roger's academic life.

But just before Roger was to defend his thesis, the professor who had been his advisor all along and assured Roger his work was good enough to get him his PhD left Lancaster to take a job at another university.

Roger was left to face an unfamiliar, and ultimately unsympathetic panel.

"The panel, at least from Roger’s point of view just gave him a really hard time,"  the pastor says. "They told him it wasn’t good enough and didn’t pass him. Roger was so devastated he gave up. He could have appealed but he gave up."

"I felt the scholarship was worthy," Roger now says, "but, yes, I was extremely disappointed."

That disappointment has stayed with Roger for 30 years. That disappointment is what Strouse decided to do something about.

With the help of her congregation at San Francisco's First United Lutheran Church, Strouse has spent the past few years helping right what they saw as a wrong.

Once it was realized that getting Roger his Phd was not realistic, they set their sights on publishing Roger's manuscript so that others might benefit from his hard work.

They arranged to have all 400 pages of the now-faded manuscript retyped. They raised more than $1,000 to have the book published. And on Saturday, they held a book-release party at Roger's nursing home to celebrate.


"This is a wonderful day for me," Roger said, clutching one of the first, professionally printed copies of his work. "Thank you all so much."

Strouse says all the years of work are worth it to see one man's dream come true, particularly one who has been through so many tough times.

"Oh I feel, it’s, I can’t even tell you, my heart is just so full."

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