Roger Dale Batton, age 72 years of Three Oaks, Michigan, father, grandfather, brother, dog-lover, traveler, and storyteller, died peacefully at 9:55 p.m. on Wednesday, December 8, 2021, with family gathered at his bedside at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana following a brief illness.
Roger was born on November 14, 1949 in Berrien Center, Michigan to Byphell V. and Betty G. (Crowell) Batton, and graduated from Niles (Michigan) High School with the class of 1967. He continued his education at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo), earning a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing in 1976.
At 20 years of age, Roger was drafted into the U.S. Army, completing basic training and transferring to the National Guard just days before the May 4, 1970 shootings at Kent State University. Challenged by the possibility of being a soldier facing civilians, Roger obtained Conscientious Objector status through the Eastern Mennonite College. For five years, he served as a National Guardsman while going to college full-time. After his term of service, he was truly and remarkably Honorably Discharged, having served his country in the military in a manner that followed his moral compass.
Roger returned to the Michiana area and was employed in various manufacturing firms until 1989, when he founded Oaktree Associates, Inc. As a consultant to large scale manufacturing, he identified processes that could be improved, usually through employee empowerment. Roger also became a member of the ISO-9000 Quality Association. His results were highly respected, and he honorably retired in 2014.
Roger loved traveling, a passion that was born when he purchased a van in the 70’s and proceeded to drive all across America. Later in life, some of his travels were in his cabin cruiser, the “Jody Lynn”, which allowed for weeks-long tours on Lake Michigan with his family. In his lifetime, Roger visited all fifty states, a variety of European countries, Central America, and Canada. Roger also had a special love for New York City, specifically the theater, art museums, and fine dining. He was a member of the Dramatists Guild of New York, and more close-by, he was a member and frequent visitor at the Chicago Art Institute, with a special appreciation for impressionism. Roger truly loved and appreciated the pursuit of joy in life through music, poetry, art, cinema, stage performance, singing, and dancing, and relentlessly pursued each of these passions in many aspects of his life.
Perhaps in balance with his pursuit of the fine arts was his great passion for the outdoors. In 2001, Roger moved to rural Three Oaks, purchasing eighteen wooded acres, clearing part of that land, and building a home. He regularly hiked–usually six miles among the wooded dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan–and liked to share those hikes with family and friends. He also invited family and friends to join him in managing his land by felling trees and clearing brush, which he greatly enjoyed. He always made sure to make a party of it with bonfires, camping, and storytelling late into the evening.
In retirement, Roger had more time to pursue his interests, returning to his contemplative love of creative writing, and rediscovering his romantic soul in poetry and stage performance. He developed a passion for storytelling, exploring the healing benefits of truly owning your own story. This practice led him to found MyPath Bibliotherapy, a nonprofit designed to help participants understand and take ownership over their own narrative through writing and performance. Roger developed and published the Five Layers of Story, his philosophy on how story shapes us through our lives. Roger experienced true joy in helping others in so many ways throughout his life, and storytelling was the culmination of that lifelong drive.
Roger’s life always included pet dogs, usually Rottweilers and Dobermans, sharing his home with as many as five at a time, and totaling sixteen dogs over the years. He learned classical K-9 dog training – in German – and often helped friends and family as they trained their dogs. He consistently owned a dog for the majority of his adult life and loved taking his dogs for long walks at the beach.
Roger was previously married to Jody Lynn Froelich who has remained a friend and an important part of Roger’s life. He was preceded in death by his parents and by a sister, Linda Liss in 2014, and a brother, Allen Batton in 2016. Surviving family includes his children, Gillian Leah Batton of Greenwood, Indiana, Ayla Cherie (& Malkam) Batton-Wyman of Three Oaks, John Allen (& Andrea) Lendman of Elkhart, Indiana, and Nicole Marie (& Nick) Hardy of Bristol, Indiana; grandchildren Nicholas Ramon Hardy, Kale John Hardy, Matthew James Grolich, Adam Jacob Grolich, Clover Glee Batton, and Ira Emmett Wyman; Roger’s brother, Tim (& Jackie) Batton of South Bend, Indiana, and many nieces and nephews. Roger deeply valued his family and enjoyed creating and maintaining familial tradition and ritual with his loved ones.
Roger hosted an annual event at his home which came to be known as the Woodchoppers Ball. His family will be hosting a final Woodchoppers Memorial Ball in his woods on Strawberry Hill to share memories of Roger and honor his life. That event will include the Veteran’s Flag Presentation and “Taps” by the United States Army Honor Guard. The schedule and date for this memorial will be announced on this website.
Contributions in memory of Roger Batton may be made to the Anam Cara Stables – Horses Healing the Human Soul; 4298 East 1000 North, La Porte, Indiana, 46350, https://anamcarastables.org/ ; or to the Wolf Park – Save Wolves, Save Wilderness, 4004 East 800 North, Battle Ground, Indiana, 47920, https://wolfpark.org/ . Arrangements were made at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles. Online condolences may be left at:
Roger’s life included many of the cultural touchpoints of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s in the United States: traveling in a van, dancing, poetry, and living as a soldier, student, and conscientious objector. But Roger also embodied the concept of a Renaissance Man, having wide and diverse interests, and developing a proficiency in each interest. Perhaps most importantly, others were better because of Roger’s life, as he sought to help employees through his work, hosted folks at his home, trained dogs, and empowered souls through his storytelling. Finally, Roger had a deep and complex personality, from the contemplative times by a fire at home, the 20-year-old’s response to immoral authority, an unfailing sense of integrity, and his motto: “Laissez les bons temps rouler” – let the good times roll!