In memoriam: Roger Schempp was part of landmark court case

Roger Schempp, center, with parents Ed and Sidney, and siblings Barbara and Ellery.

Roger Wade Schempp, who testified in the Abington v. Schempp First Amendment case, died March 29 at age 77.

He was born Feb. 28, 1943, to Edward and Sidney Schempp. He was the husband of the late Mary Lou “Lucy” Zimmerman, to whom he was married for 40 years (until her death in 2009).  He is survived by his elder brother Ellery, younger sister Donna, brother-in-law Tom Rute, and sister-in-law Ellen (Bitsy) Zimmerman.

Lucy and Roger first met in Nebraska at Hiram Scott College where Roger graduated. Roger went on to work at the Public Works Department of Pennsauken Township, N.J., as an inspector at the landfill.

His place in history is secured as he was part of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court First Amendment case — Abington v. Schempp (1963). At the age of 17, he testified to uphold the “separation of church and state” rights of children in U.S. public schools. Due to his family’s and his efforts, the case terminated the exercise of mandated bible reading in public schools throughout the country.

Roger set up the family’s scrapbook of newspaper articles and letters, thus establishing a historical archive.

Roger loved trains, not only the family’s Lionel model trains, but also riding on them. Several times he would travel across the country coast to coast to visit his parents.

He volunteered for years at a Pennsauken food pantry and was energetic in his support of the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, N.J. Roger loved animals, particularly cats, and volunteered at PetSmart.