Sylvia Jean Rogers Douglas was born on March 10, 1957, in Asuncion, Paraguay, to Dean Earl and Grace Lucille Shoppe Rogers, who were missionaries with the Disciples with Christ. Sylvia loved and adored her siblings, Sydney, Lyndon, David, (Sylvia), and Steven (deceased) and knew of a stillborn baby that her parents buried in Indiana.
Her parents met at Butler University and completed two degrees there to enter the mission field. After language school in Costa Rica, the Rogers served in Paraguay, Argentina and Venezuela. Most of their time was spent in northern Argentina in the Chaco Region and all the children attended national schools and learned Spanish as their native language while speaking English at home.
The Rogers were immersed in Argentine and South American culture and loved the area and its people as their own, and they were committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, the Great Commission and classic Christianity. Sylvia, as with the rest of her siblings and parents, carried the soul of South America in her spirit.
The Rogers returned to the United States to start new churches when Sylvia was in high school, and she attended school in San Antonio, then Houston, where she graduated at the top of her class summa cum laude. It was in high school, especially, that she began feeling a tug in her heart to pursue her gifts and develop her skills in music, participating in many individual and choral competitions with a beautiful voice and great flexibility between singing alto and soprano.
Sylvia was awarded both academic and musical scholarships to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, where she gained two separate degrees — a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Bachelor of Music Education — with all-level certification. She graduated summa cum laude, after five years, all the while participating in musical groups, concerts and singing groups, including the concert chorale directed by Ronald Shirey. She was also invited to sing with the distinguished Chamber Singers (acapella).
Her senior recital was beautiful and included Robert Schuman’s, “Du Ring on Meinen Finger.” Her voice teacher, Roger Bryant, and the concert chorale were invited to sing on several occasions with the world renowned Robert Shaw, conducting the Fort Worth Symphony.
In 1978, Sylvia and Robert, by the mysterious hand of God, met randomly. Her brother suggested she walk across the street to have her film developed from her 21st birthday party. That single random circumstance would be the only reason the two met. Robert was smitten from the moment he met her. Both were dating other people at the time, but Robert was the first to end his relationship with a wonderful girl, and then began pursuing Sylvia with all his passion and prayers! Robert’s persistence paid off, although Sylvia initially refused his attempts.
Finally, a large — a very large — bunch of daises, perhaps bigger than any other ever assembled in the history of the world, finally cracked the shell of her waning loyalty. She said goodbye to a great guy to say hello to the man of her dreams.
Immediately after her breakup, she called Robert and asked, “Is your invitation still open to go to that movie?” A movie, a midnight jogging run and a brief kiss started an intense eight-week adventure of discovering each other, by running through sprinklers, all night conversations, guitar playing and singing, lots of questions and lots of answers, a trip to see her parents, Dean and Grace, in Oklahoma City, and then a trip to Birmingham to meet his “mama,” Betty. That was followed by an awkward, but a correct question in Spanish to her parents: “Mr. Rogers, with your permission and with the permission of your spouse, I would like to have your permission to marry your daughter, Sylvia Jean.”
Robert was a theology student working to complete his Masters of Divinity in Classical Languages, Ancient History and Biblical Studies — a future pastor who was looking for the most gorgeous woman in the world who was equally ready to serve beside him in ministry for the rest of their lives. Sylvia was always his “first lady,” first in his heart and first in her family and first in the hearts and lives of the people they would love and lead as they built their ministries in Texas, Missouri, Illinois and Wyoming.
When Robert saw Sylvia, when he had his first conversation with her, there was no doubt Sylvia was the one. In fact, at some point years later, Robert had a memory flashback to a cool spring Saturday morning when he saw a beautiful young lady cross University Avenue just south of Bluebonnet Circle. She was in jeans, a brown sweatshirt and she was carrying a load of laundry headed to the laundromat. He watched intently as this mysterious young lady caught his attention and walked out of sight, and he prayed, “Let me find and marry a girl exactly like that!” Little did he know that God was taking notes, and making plans for the two to fall madly and deeply in love with each other.
There were only six weeks from their first date on July 11, 1978, until they were engaged, and in total another year until they were married on July 21, 1979, at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
And then 40 years passed like it was a dream, a dream come true. Four wonderful, beautiful children — Elizabeth Grace, Amelia Joy, Rachael Faith and Ian McKay … how many thousand times did they wonder how it all happened. Only God’s grace, only Jesus’ love could ever be responsible for this.
Sylvia and Robert homeschooled all the kids until high school, built a home in the country, taught them facts and figures and faith. Sylvia taught them “it’s better to be kind than to be funny or right,” “grandchildren are the dessert of parenting,” “the choice of your spouse is the single most important decision you’ll ever make, besides accepting Jesus as your Savior and Lord,” and in raising children “the days are long, but the years are short.”
She loved the adage from the movie “The Help,” to speak to her children and others, “You is kind, you is smart and you is important.” Robert taught the kids the three rules of life, based on the words of Jesus. “The most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor like you love yourself.” No. 1, Honor God in everything you do; No. 2, Respect and take care of others; No. 3, Always do your best. Sylvia taught school early in her marriage at Toler Elementary in Garland, Texas, and then devoted nearly 20 years homeschooling the kids in Kirksville, Missouri, and then more recently taught elementary music education at Aspen Elementary in Evanston.
In 2007, Sylvia was diagnosed with appendix cancer and had numerous oncology surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. She fought hard for 12 and a half years to be able to see all four children married and four grandchildren born, not to mention other significant life milestones, including Robert’s and Sylvia’s 40th anniversary on, July 21, 2019.
Sylvia most recently was still battling the cancer with the help of the Huntsman Cancer Hospital and with their wonderful physicians and nurses and research staff. She and Robert received care from the wonderful support of the Uinta County Senior Center Caregiver Respite program and Cowboy Cares Home Health and Hospice Program.
Sylvia died at 9:01 p.m. on Monday, March 9, and went home to heaven by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross for her sin. Robert and her children rejoice not only in her victory, but in her joy, love, faithfulness, kindness, passion and ability to connect in love with everyone. She has left a legacy of love and leadership in everything she has done. She leaves a husband, Robert, who has and always will adore her.
All are invited to a special Sunday service at 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 15, at the Evanston Roundhouse. Funeral visitation will begin at 1 p.m., with funeral services to follow at 3 p.m. Burial will be 10 a.m. Monday at the Millburne Cemetery in Fort Bridger.