Those who knew Roger Crossen say they very rarely saw him without a smile on his face.
"We talked about that often," said his son Chris. "When you are doing what's right and you are doing it with love and compassion, that gives you joy. It gives you a smile you can't fake."
Roger Crossen, a member of the county Board of Commissioners since 2015 and a long-time director of the Whitfield County Parks and Recreation Department, passed away Tuesday morning after a battle with the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
"Never one time in my life did I wonder whether I was loved or where I stood with him," said Chris Crossen. "That was never something I had to worry about. The way he was as a commissioner was the way he was with his family. He loved this community, and he loved his family. He wanted what was best for his family even if it wasn't necessarily the best for him. 'What's in it for me?' was the last thing on his mind."
Roger Crossen's colleagues said they were devastated on Tuesday.
"I am broken-hearted," said Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter. "I worked with him for six years, and he was one of the best commissioners I've had the pleasure of serving with. He came to every meeting very well prepared. From his time in the rec department, he knew how the county worked, and he always made his decisions based on what he thought was best for the county."
A Dalton native, Crossen graduated from North Whitfield High School in 1970. He attended Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State College), served in the U.S. Army for eight years and completed a degree in business management through the University of Maryland using the G.I. Bill.
He began working at the Whitfield County Parks and Recreation Department in August 1985 and became the department’s director in 1991. He left the position in July 2008. In 2011, he began working at Coahulla Creek High School as the credit recovery coordinator and in-school suspension teacher.
"Working at Coahulla Creek was probably one of the most rewarding things he did," said Chris Crossen. "Some of the kids he worked with were down to some of their last chances, and he absolutely cherished going in there every day and trying to help them graduate."
Chris Crossen said his father cared deeply about the community, especially its youth.
"You could go with him to high school games, and he'd tell you all about the kids and what rec teams they played with," he recalled.
Former Board of Commissioners chairman Mike Babb noted that when Roger Crossen ran for the Board of Commissioners in 2014 and 2018, he was unopposed both times.
"That shows you how well known and respected he was in the community," he said.
Babb worked with Crossen when Crossen was Parks and Recreation Department director and served on the Board of Commissioners with him for two years.
"I cannot believe he has passed away," Babb said. "He was always up. He always had a smile on his face. If you were having a down day, he was somebody you wanted to talk to. He always had a good attitude. I enjoyed working with him."
Crossen represented District 3 and Commissioner Greg Jones represents District 4, so they sat next to each other at commission meetings for the past four years.
"He came to meetings well prepared," Jones said. "He had a lot of insight because he had worked for the county for so long. He was a great commissioner and just a really good guy. He was always upbeat. He was compassionate. He cared a lot about the county."
The emotion in Commissioner Harold Brooker's voice was strong as he spoke about Crossen.
"Roger was a good man," Brooker said. "He did a great job as rec director, especially given the money he had. He had a tight budget back then. He really built the rec department into what it is."
Brooker worked with Crossen when Crossen was Parks and Recreation Department director and served on the Board of Commissioners with him for the past six years.
"Roger was always positive," Brooker said. "You never saw him being negative. He's really going to be missed, by those of us who worked with him and by the community."
Commissioner Barry Robbins served with Crossen for the past six years and also noted how he was always upbeat.
"It was a pleasure to serve with Roger," he said. "He was a great asset to the Board of Commissioners and to the community. This is a sad day for Whitfield County. He will truly be missed."