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Roger Haas, German from Russia

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On this date in 2000, the generous gift of half a million dollars by Roger Haas to the Germans from Russia Heritage Society was announced. Roger had come a long way from being a motherless farm boy who spoke German at home. Now a successful businessman in Portland, Oregon, Roger wanted to give back to the community he came from by honoring his roots.

Roger was born in 1934 near Zeeland to August and Kathryn Haas. Tragically, both of his parents had lost their mothers as children and they would lose their first-born child at three days old.

Kathryn died when Roger was 11 years old, but he did not let the passing of his mother stop him. Roger took inspiration from her dying wish that he do well in school so that he could succeed. He also heeded his father’s motto “Work makes life sweet.”

Roger studied at the Industrial College in Ellendale and taught at a school near Linton. At twenty, Roger moved west to Portland, Oregon, where he enrolled at Cascade College. While working as a Fuller Brush salesman, he met his wife Roberta, whom he married in 1955. Roger became an elementary school teacher and superintendent at various schools in rural Oregon until 1976, relying instead on purchasing rundown homes to refurbish and rent out.

Roger was a devoted member of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. He also served a few years as president of the Oregon Chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia; and was on the board of directors of the Heritage Foundation for Germans from Russia. He was also a founding member and president of the “Germans from Russia of Oregon and Washington.”

His business success and frugality allowed him and his wife to travel and give generously to their church and good causes. The gift announced on this date in 2000, was for the Germans from Russia Heritage Society headquarters. It was bursting at the seams and badly in need of a new building to house their library. Roger gave half a million dollars, which covered most of the cost. Thus the building was named after Roger’s parents, August and Kathryn Shauer Haas.

Roger continued his involvement with many different German from Russia groups until his death in 2016.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa

Sources:

Associated Press, “Gift was Born in Adversity,” The Bismarck Tribune, November 29, 2000, pg. 1B-2B.

Author Unknown, “In Memory of Roger Haas,” GROW Quarterly Newsletter, Vol. 16, Issue 1, October-November-December, 2016. Pg. 1, 3.

Author Unknown, “Roger Haas,” The Oregon Chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, https://www.oregonahsgr.org/roger-haas.html, accessed October 14, 2021.

Dooley, Sheena, “Germans from Russia Plan New Headquarters,” The Bismarck Tribune, June 10, 2000, pg. 13.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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