John McCroskey Commentary: Mike Roewe Is an Example of a Life Well Lived


I wasn’t originally going to write a column this week at all due to grandkids, summer activities and Father’s Day, but then I went to the funeral mass for former District Court Judge Mike Roewe last week, and I simply couldn’t help myself.

Having grown up in Chehalis, the Roewes owned the theater downtown where I saw some old John Wayne westerns and James Bond with my dad. 

I could only go by myself or with a friend if I mowed someone’s lawn or did some chores for a neighbor. Otherwise, I didn’t really know the Roewes until many years later. But in this town, it was hard not to be aware of their presence.

Later, one of my favorite stories doorbelling while campaigning for Lewis County sheriff was coming upon the house of Vivian Roewe, the matriarch of the family (and former mayor of Chehalis), and she could not have been nicer. 

She insisted we use the restroom even if we didn’t have to because she knew we’d need to sooner or later.

And being a door-knocking former elected official, she knew.

I really had no more contact with the Roewes until Vivian’s funeral, and after that until I was either in court or became sheriff.

It wouldn’t be true to say Mike and I never butted heads after I was elected sheriff — we did.  But it was never personal with Mike and it was over as soon as we parted. And usually it was just a difference of opinion on how to arrive at the same place. But unlike some I dealt with, there was no misunderstanding what Mike thought.

Outside of work, Mike and I shared a love of the Boy Scouts and went to the National Scout Ranch in New Mexico together. We roomed together in what could only by a stretch be called a room. It was a tent and we were there in July. Pretty much every day was 100 degrees, and it poured down rain from noon to 1 p.m. every day except for our last night there.   

On that night, it rained all night long, and the canvas tent only leaked in one spot — right over my head. As I crabbed about this, Mike looked at me with his one good eye and asked me what I’d done to God to cause this? 

I wasn’t sure — it could have been a lot of things — but I reminded him that a book he’d loaned me was also getting wet.

That did seem to trouble him some.

After being elected sheriff, Mike and I interacted professionally on occasion. We both needed some things but had differing opinions on how to get there. And we both had personalities that were prone to clash. I was soft, compliant and very accommodating. Mike was strong and opinionated.

OK, that’s not true. 

We both could be pretty strong in our opinions, which may or may not be a surprise to anyone.

But Mike and I, while we didn’t often interact, did share one other thing — our sons. My son, Jeff, and his son, Patrick, were friends. And everyone seemed to know who the sheriff’s kid and the judge’s kid were. 

I’m not sure that helped keep them out of trouble, but it couldn’t have hurt.

At the funeral, Mike’s kids eulogized him in a way any father would hope to be remembered.  His presence in his children’s lives was an example this Father’s Day for dads everywhere.  But his fatherly presence reached beyond his own children.

His presence in St. Joseph’s choir, in Scouts, in the training of altar servers is something that should also be an example to fathers everywhere. I’d be remiss not to include the influence of their mother and Mike's wife, Karen, who I’m sure played a role in all of this. 

Both Mike and Karen were taken too soon.

Rest in peace, Mike. You really were an example of a life well lived. Maybe one day in the future we can continue to argue about video arraignment in heaven. 

If I make it.


John McCroskey was Lewis County sheriff from 1995 to 2005. He lives outside Chehalis, and can be contacted at