Lydia Rogers was unique in the St. Louis Park community – a married woman/divorcee/widow who ran her own business and was accepted and respected by everyone. Everything she did served the community, whether it be by publishing directories, renewing license plates, or maybe just being that one notary public who was available in the middle of the night.
Lidia Reiter was born on July 7, 1899, in Zyradow, Poland, a fact that few people knew until her death. She came to America with her family in 1903, sailing from Bremen, German on April 4 and arriving in Philadelphia on April 21, according to the manifest of the SS Hannover. Her father’s name was Josef and her mother was Amalie. She had an older sister Wilhelmina and a younger brother Leonard. The manifest listed the family’s “Country” as Russia and its “Race or People” as German. Josef’s father had gone before them to Minneapolis and had sent the fare to join him. When they arrived in Philadelphia they were detained because her mother was found to have “ankylosis of left elbow, stiff joint, which will affect her ability, etc.” This document described the family as Polish. They were allowed to come through. They had their fare and $15.
The first available census shows Lydia Reiter living at 2627 Fourth Street. This was in 1920, this is near the University of Minnesota, she would have been 21 years old, and she was listed as a roomer, so perhaps she was taking classes or had in the past. Her occupation was listed as stenographer, and her nationality German.
Lydia married first husband Alcide Camile “Butch” Demeules from Minneapolis on January 11, 1922, in Minneapolis. With Butch, Lydia had her first two children.
- Yvonne Jeannette Demeules was born in about 1922 and graduated from St. Louis Park High School in 1940. She informally changed her name to Mitzi Rogers in 1925 and changed it legally when she went into the Marines. She served in California and Hawaii during the war, and worked as a court reporter during war crimes proceedings in Heidelberg, where she met her husband, Balthazar Hubertus “Pinky” Pinckaers, who was Dutch. They married on July 2, 1947 in Munich. Mitzi was extremely active in organizing reunions for the class of 1940. She died on October 14, 2005.
- Robert Sherwood Rogers was born in about 1924 and graduated in 1942. He served on a submarine as an electrical engineer during the war, and moved his family to California in 1960. He also married a European, Maria, from Germany. Robert died in 1997.
Lydia and Butch divorced in February 1925; Butch died on November 30, 1938, of cirrhosis of the liver.
It was in 1925 that Lydia first came to St. Louis Park from Osseo, and also the year she married Bishop McClure Rogers, on August 29.
- Lydia and Bishop Rogers had a daughter, Caroll Lou, who was born on August 6, 1927. Caroll Lou married Joseph Irving Fisher (1923 – 1977). They had five children and divorced some time after 1962. Caroll Lou died on January 16, 2002.
Bishop Rogers ran a sign painting business from their home after his business burned down.
Lydia and Bishop Rogers created the first Village directory in 1933-34. The project started when FDR wanted a list of the unemployed in preparation for the WPA. The Village chose the Rogers to take the census, and they went door-to-door gathering the information. They reportedly netted only $10 from their first directory. When Bishop died after a fall on December 12, 1938, Lydia continued to publish the directories until 1959.
In addition to producing directories, which would grow exponentially during Park’s tremendous growth, her professional services included maps, mimeographing, mailing lists, typing, and printing. She was a notary public, and from 1948 to 1978 she was a State agent for drivers licenses and automobile transfers. Before the Dispatch was launched in 1941, she also wrote a column about Park news in Hopkins’ Hennepin County Review.
She advertised that her services as a notary public were available 24 hours a day, and was often roused out of bed to serve a customer in her night clothes. She also took in roomers in this small house/office. She is remembered as a generous, helpful person (and a chain smoker, surrounded by ashtrays).
Dave Wiest brought in the photo below, taken in Lydia’s office. Apparently she was fond of taking pictures of her clients and posting them on her walls. Wouldn’t we love to have those photos today! She would also purchase Park High yearbooks and record students’ drivers licenses in them, perhaps as a way to verify identity.
Lydia Rogers was extraordinarily active in the community. From 1938 she was the only female member of the Business Men’s Association, and up to 1948 she acted as Secretary and Treasurer. During the War she was a member of the St. Louis Park Commodity Allocation Board. She was also a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association of Minneapolis.
HOME AND OFFICE
From 1925 to 1936, we think the Rogers family lived at 4150 Brookside, although another source gives the house number as 4143, and the year as 1921. (House numbers on Brookside Ave. during that time were rather fluid.) From 1936 to 1947, Lydia lived at 4069 Alabama Ave.
From 1947 to 1978, Lydia lived at her new place of business, 4901 Excelsior Blvd. This building was specifically built for commercial and residential use. The photo below was probably taken in the early 1950s.
Lydia Rogers died on August 8, 1987, of a stroke/hypertension. Although her last home was in Bloomington, we can be sure that she always had St. Louis Park in her heart. She made tremendous contributions to the community, and will always remain part of our city’s legacy.
See also Directories.