Mr. Frank Marcellus Rookard entered his heavenly home on Friday, April 13, 2018, after a brief time at Spartanburg Regional Hospice House in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He endured a series of medical complications over the past year that required him to be a full time resident of Ellen Sager Nursing Home in Union, South Carolina.
Marcellus was the only child of the late Cornie Homer “C.H” Rookard and the late Willie Mae Wilkerson Rookard. According to the 1940 census, he was born in 1933. At some point, his birthday became documented as 12/5/1934. His parents were prominent educators in the Wellford community and his father C.H. Furman was the son of Furman Rookard and Annie Fowler Rookard. Furman’s siblings and children primarily attended Upper Shady Grove Baptist Church where they were active in church.
The Rookards lineage dates back to the Revolutionary War (Bedney Rookard). They were a large family recognized as progressive farmers (in peaches), property owners and overall educated, upright, and prominent citizens of Wellford. This occurred during the 1920s-30s, in spite of Jim Crow Laws and the Great Depression. As a result, Marcellus had privileges and a host of first cousins and close friends who helped look after his special needs. Marcellus was known for his amazing strength and love of riding his bike. There was no need to worry about others taking advantage of him. He could defend himself with no problem.
Marcellus attended Corner Primary Rosenwald School (early 1940s) and later Upper Shady Grove Colored School (also Rosenwald), alongside his buddy and first cousin, Raymond Arnold, Jr., up to the 8th grade. These schools were a part of American History as they were founded by Julius Rosenwald. He was the 1915 President of Sears Roebuck that launched the Rosenwald Fund. It constructed 5000 schools focused on educating black children across 15 states in the rural south. Buildings still standing today are generally preserved and recognized as historical sites.
After C.H. Rookard passed, Marcellus was primarily cared for by his mother Willie Mae Rookard and by his mother’s, sister, Eloise Watkins, (of Watkins, Garrett and Woods Mortuary). He outlived his caregivers and spent most of his adult life at Whitten Village (Clinton, SC) and West Main House (Union, SC). He enjoyed participating in activity time and interacting with other residents. Marcellus’ limited mental capacity made it difficult for him to communicate verbally, however, his body language, looks, gestures and even a few licks at times, allowed him to express himself. He was never declared incompetent by a court of law.
His caregivers describe him as primarily a warm-spirited, gentle resident who remained fairly healthy until he fell and broke his hip in the summer of 2017. At this point he moved to Ellen Sager Nursing Home. Even as his health declined his spirit was not broken
He is survived by his first cousin and primary responsible contact, Raymond Arnold Jr., of Spartanburg, SC, by Raymond’s children, Dr. Sonya Arnold of Miami, FL, Dr. Toni Arnold-(Tony) McFarland of Raleigh, NC, Raymond T. Arnold III of Detroit, MI; a host of relatives; and the legacy documented by the Rookard Interstate Reunion (primarily in SC, NC, FL, OH, MI).