In memoriam: Roger Chapman lived life on his own terms

Longtime FFRF Member Roger P. Chapman, 78, died July 5 in Fitchburg, Wis. He had been a member since 1979!

Roger was born in Eau Claire, Wis., on June 25, 1941, to Jean and Margaret (Sweeney) Chapman. He graduated from Evansville (Wis.) High School in 1959 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1964. Roger thought public schools were excellent and opposed public money going to religious or other private schools.

Roger worked at Evansville’s Rex Theater, where he eventually became a projectionist. That led to jobs as a projectionist while he was an undergrad in college and a computer systems analyst in grad school.

When the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) became law in 1971, Roger designed and became a project leader of Wisconsin’s OSHA system.

Based on his experience, Roger thought a broad liberal arts education, rather than one focused on computer science, was best for a computer systems designer.

After Roger was disabled by an accident, Dr. George Szasz gave him good advice regarding rehabilitation and living a full and active life. Roger followed this advice unrelentingly.

Roger spent six years in the Army Reserves, and became a political activist in his later years. He was a member of the Democratic and Socialist parties and several public interest organizations. In 2003, he was honored as an extraordinary activist by the Coalition for Wisconsin Health.

Longtime friend Ingrid Andersson wrote this about Roger for Freethought Today:

“Roger was a family friend. We met at an FFRF function in the late 1980s. Roger grew up Catholic, but by the time I met him in the late 1980s, he was passionately opposed to religion and never tired of revealing holes of logic and mercy within it, especially Catholicism.

“Roger was also passionate about working toward an American single-payer health care system, and as an activist nurse and midwife, I shared those political local initiatives with him. Roger was a deeply compassionate individual who always got to the heart of the matter and rarely small-talked.

“Many people who knew Roger did not realize how much he loved folk dancing and singing. Though he could not dance — being confined to a wheelchair since a motorcycle crash as a young man — he possessed intelligent, dancing eyes, and was a member of a secular monthly singing group. Many of us in Madison loved Roger for his truth-seeking qualities and passions, and we will miss him.”

Roger with Ingrid Andersson and her brother Karl Johnson in the early 1990s.
Roger and Ingrid Andersson at an FFRF convention.
Roger Chapman