Avalanche victim remembered

Lisa Roepke, wearing helmet, talks with Wallowa County Search and Rescue Coordinator Steve Rogers moments before her husband's body was carried out of the Eagle Cap Wilderness Tuesday afternoon.<BR><I>Photo by Kathleen Ellyn/Wallowa County Chieftain</i>

The friends of Roger Roepke, who died in an back country avalanche near Aneroid Lake Saturday, were already mourning his loss this week, even as many of them were still involved in the recovery of his body Tuesday afternoon.

As Roger's wife of 20 years, Lisa, stood at the trailhead surrounded by the recovery crew she had accompanied, she was able to smile and said that the Monday trip up to the basin had brought her closure.

"We can't know the future, we can only know the moment and Roger lived it fully," she said. "I was so blessed to have that man in my life. I called my Dad and he said, 'I can't imagine this happening in any better place. I know I don't need to be there this minute because you have the arms of the county surrounding you.'"

Family friend Charl Whiting, manger of Wing Ridge Ski Tours, stood at Lisa's side.

"He will be missed by a lot of people," Whiting said. She recalled that Roepke and his family had been drawn to the rugged wilderness of the county and skiing in it. "He loved it so much," she said.

It was on a ski tour of Wing Ridge that Roger Roepke met Don Woodhouse, the man who, along with Roepke's son Erich, was buried in the same avalanche, but survived.

Whiting said Roepke, often working alongside son Erich, 15, helped her often, working to keep the Wing Ridge huts in shape. The other members of the family, Roger's wife, Lisa, and son, Kyle, 13, also sometimes helped out.

Whiting said that the Roepke family "just jumped in and got involved" in community life after moving to the county.

"They are a very strong, close-knit family," said Whiting. "Roger was adored by his sons."

Roger was well known as a very cautious man, said his wife Lisa.

"He was my rock," Lisa Roepke said. "He was the most cautious skier people knew. He was the most cautious driver. He told me 'I ran out of fun tickets when I was 18.' My dad said Roger was one of the most cautious people he knew. He would never take Erich any place dangerous."

The Roepke family has already talked about revisiting the Aneroid Basin in the summer, Lisa said.

"What took place up there in the basin was interesting on many levels," she said. "There is a quote that is a favorite of mine. 'When we come to the end of all that we know, we will be given earth to stand on or wings to fly.' In that basin, I knew Roger flew."

The Roepke family moved to Enterprise from Reno, Nev., in 2006.

"We were looking for a place in the Northwest - a place where the boys could ride their bikes on their own and have the sense of freedom that Lisa and I grew up with," Roepke said in a 2007 Wallowa County Chieftain story. "We shortened our commute as well, and now it's 60 seconds by bike."

Roepke brought his Black Rock Engineering business with him from Reno, and he and his wife also had a second business, Sol Shelters, specializing in solar homes. They recently moved their office from the EM&M building in downtown Enterprise to their house.

The family enjoyed bicycling, as well as skiing, and Roger and his sons recently worked at the Cycle Oregon event.

Lisa Roepke is a member of the Ferguson Ridge Ski Patrol and also a member of the Chief Joseph Summer Camp.

"He was a great guy," said Ralph Swinehart of Wallowa Mountain Engineering about Roger Roepke, who was both a "friendly rival" and a neighbor. Swinehart said that the Roepkes were in the process of remodeling a house.

Two spiritual supporters accompanied Lisa Roepke as Roger'sbody was brought home to Enteprise, conducting ceremonies both at the basin and at the trail head. Friend and medicine woman Laurel "Windspirit" Sander, of Windspirit Wellness Retreat in Sheep Creek conducted the service for Roger up in Aneroid Lake Basin.

"Roger is what I call the 'warp' of a rug," she said. "He's not the weft, he's not the colors, he's the warp and he touched every one of us and it's those threads that hold the whole community together."

The service at the trailhead was conducted by Joe McCormick of Enterprise.

"We can't know the future, we can only know the moment and Roger lived it fully," Lisa Roepke said. "I was so blessed to have that man in my life."

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