Maryland widow moves forward three years after officials made her remove a roadside memorial to her husband


In 2005, this memorial on Route 50 was maintained by Deana Rogers. She says her late husband has sent along a new love for her. (James M Thresher/The Washington Post)

Deana Rogers no longer tends the roadside memorial on Route 50 in Anne Arundel County, near the Davidsonville exit. For five years, since a few months after the 2003 motorcycle accident that killed her husband, Charles “Chuckie” Rogers, she had maintained the memorial as a place to grieve, remember and still talk to the man she called her soul mate.

The memorial to Chuckie, co-owner of a trucking company, had been nearly five feet wide and included a cross and a shadow box of family photos, including one from their wedding day on the back of a Harley-Davidson. The theme changed with the holidays. There were hearts for Valentine’s Day, flags on the Fourth of July, decorative garden stones and always flowers. Friends driving by would honk when they saw her there, about once a week.

Highway officials made Rogers dismantle the memorial in 2008. “They said it was a new law where you couldn’t have anything around the road.”

Rogers, 41, and her daughter with Chuckie, Samantha, 18, are sitting outside a Starbucks. Rogers’s four-inch-long tattoo, which reads “In Loving Memory of My Soul Mate, Chuckie,” can still be seen over the neckline of her tank top.

It still rankles the mother and daughter that they had to remove their well-tended memorial. Samantha used to put purple flowers by his cross. “None of us liked going to the cemetery before, but now that’s where we have to go. There’s no option.”

There have been other changes in the three years since.

Samantha, who is about to graduate from Southern High School, is planning on attending Anne Arundel Community College, then the University of Maryland. And Rogers has spent the past month moving out of the Lothian double-wide trailer she’d moved into 16 years ago. She’d been a deli manager for Safeway but has been on disability since shortly after the accident because of an unrelated neck injury. Earlier this year, Rogers stopped receiving her late husband’s Social Security income and couldn’t afford the trailer.

Two years ago, she met Kevin Macleay, a construction superintendent, at a friend’s wedding and fell in love. When she lost her home, Macleay invited Rogers and Samantha to live with him in Denton. Rogers believes that Chuckie had a hand in the way things worked out.

“I believe [Chuckie] brought him my way to help me get out of my funk and start looking at life different. It had been eight years, and part of me feels like I died, too. He woke me up. ... I’ve still got another half of my life to live.”

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