It’s hard to believe that eighteen years ago, the VRA (formerly ‘Susquehanna Volunteer Association’ aka SVA) was formed to serve as car attendants on the #142 steam trains. Boy have we come a long way since then. This little group of dedicated people has made a huge difference in the railfan community – raising countless thousands of dollars to help preserve railroad history, and let the public learn about why railroads were, and still are, so important to our American way of life.
Of course our lasting legacy is to be Hawthorne Station. It is very fitting that we are doing what we are there, as it was the place that helped bring this group together in the first place. It is also the place where many of us first got to know each other as members and for many – as friends.
Over these eighteen years we have had a lot of great people become part of our effort. Recently we lost one of the best when Charley Roselius passed away on January 23rd, just two days after his 89th birthday. Charley was with the VRA since the beginning, and his contributions to our group over the years are too numerous to list here. However, I can assure you that we would never have been able to accomplish so many of our projects without his help.
A while back the board had voted to give Charley the first of what we called the VRA Outstanding Service Award. With Charley’s illness he was never able to make it to one of our meetings to accept his award but I told him of our plans a few months back and he was very touched. When we heard of his passing we decided it would be most appropriate to present the plaque to Charley’s wife, Aline, and his family at the funeral, which Charles Smith and I had the honor to do.
I can tell you that it was very moving to hear all the good things people said about Charley and how he touched their lives. What I found most interesting was they were all telling the same story that we knew about Charley. He was a good and decent man who would do anything to help when asked, and sometimes even when he wasn’t. They all spoke about a man who listened better than anyone they knew and never judged another person. He just accepted you for who you were and tried in his own way to help make you a better person. We can all learn something from how Charley walked the face of this earth and from the hole that is left now that he is gone.
I was proud to let his family know that we had decided that from that day forward the award that we gave him will forever more be known as the Charley Roselius Outstanding Service Award. The smile on Aline’s face told me how proud she was to hear what we had planned – but more to the point, how proud she was of Charley for all he had done with and for us.
So, once the station is done be sure to stop and look at the plaque that will hang on the wall in his honor. Many people will receive this honor in the future, but none will be more deserving than its first recipient. I will miss our friend Charley and will use the memory of him to work towards being a better person. Rest in peace my friend.