Roger Maxwell, although reserved, loved to sing his heart out at karaoke. Specifically, he loved to sing at the Horseshu Sports Lounge in North Edmonton, commonly as “The Shu” by its patrons, where he built a community of close friends.
“Roger had a determination to make it his own ‘Cheers’ —like the old sitcom series in the ’80s about a neighbourhood pub where everybody knows your name,” says his mother, Wendy Maxwell.
From a young age, Roger suffered from social anxiety and he often found it hard to connect with others. He eventually overcame that anxiety, and developed a belief that he could overcome any problem by attacking it one step at a time.
Died on December 10, 2020
“For Roger, karaoke was not only a stress reliever after long hours as a correctional officer, it was a symbol of his personal success in breaking through his anxiety, and allowing him to express his personality, emotions, and his new-found confidence,” Wendy says.
Roger’s mother remembers the first time she heard her son on stage, one spring night seven years ago. “Roger got up and sang a few Bon Jovi songs. The crowd went wild,” she says. “Of course he mimicked familiar gestures of the real Bon Jovi too. He didn’t just sing, he performed.”
Roger did so much in a short life—he shaved his head in support of cancer research, became a reliable support system for a friend in need, and was a shoulder for his family to lean on after his father’s death. According to his family, he always opened his heart to those who needed it. Roger’s work as a corrections officer meshed with his deeply-held belief in the importance of second chances.
“He thought they were an opportunity to learn to do things differently in your life,” Wendy says.
This story was first published in MacLean’s as part of a collaborative project with Canadian journalism schools to document the lives of people who have died from COVID-19. To learn more about the project and to read the other obituaries, click here.