On Wednesday, January 3, a Celebration of Life was held for eight-year-old John Roush at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Plant City. The informal ceremony was hosted by his parents, Robert and Laura Roush, and John’s twin brother Donald and was attended mainly by the Roush family and their friends, as well as the entire USF men’s basketball team (of which John was an honorary member).
Shiloh Pastor Joe Bowles, John’s teachers from Quail Hollow Elementary, one of his uncles and USF head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim (and one of his players) all spoke about John’s sweetness, his intelligence, his tenacity, his courage as he fought what appeared to be a successful two-year battle against leukemia before he passed away suddenly and especially, his amazing hugs. Haught Funeral Home director David Wolf released a single white dove following the service.
I only ever met Laura and Robert Roush and their 8-year-old twin sons Donald and John twice, but I would be lying if I said the family didn’t have a profound impact on me.
The first time I met the Roush family, photographer Charmaine George and I attended the twins’ drive-by seventh birthday party outside their Wesley Chapel home in 2022.
John, who had suffered a recent bout with leukemia, couldn’t have a lot of people around him, because of his chemotherapy-weakened immune system. A fairly large number of people dropped off a number of presents and, knowing that children are much more likely to survive any number of cancers, I was hopeful that John would soon be given a clean bill of health and be able to go back to enjoying his much-deserved childhood.
It wasn’t too long after that when Jannah and I attended a fund raiser for the family at Chuck Lager America’s Tavern in the Shops at Wiregrass. As anyone who has had a family member suffer from cancer knows, the costs can and usually are astronomical, so Jannah and I were happy to help, especially if it meant that John would be one of the fortunate ones to be able ro survive this unforgiving scourge.
Tragically, it wasn’t meant to be. Now just a little more than eight years old, Donald will now be missing his twin and Laura and Robert will forever be missing half their hearts, as John passed away a few days before we went to press with this issue. And, even though we didn’t know the family well, Jannah and I planned to attend John’s funeral, which had not yet been announced at our press time.
No, we didn’t know the Roushes well, but John and Donald’s ever-present smiles the two times I met them reminded me of my own two sons — who aren’t twins but are as close as brothers can be. It’s hard for me, who has gotten to see both of my boys grow into amazing young men — both now with families of their own (three boys between them, as of today), careers and their own wonderful lives — to not feel tremendous sadness that Laura and Robert have been denied the feeling I have every time I’m with Jared, Jake and their families.
I honestly can’t even imagine how Laura, Robert and especially Donald are feeling, I just know that I am willing to do whatever I can to help them. I’m starting with a small donation of my own and, even though I’ve never really been successful raising money for worthwhile causes, I’m also sharing the GoFundMe link so anyone who feels equally affected by the loss of this sweet child can do the same. That link is: https://gofund.me/7f286217.
No matter what your religious beliefs may be, there’s no doubt that the loss of a precious child is one of the most difficult things in life for anyone to deal with, especially at this time of year. And, the bottom line is that even the most faithful of parents has to understand and feel the magnitude of this loss.
So, soar high, John. Just know that not only does your family love and miss you, those of us who were only briefly acquainted with you know the genuine beauty of your smile and your deserving soul. Rest in peace.
We’ll have more of the story in the January 23 issue of Wesley Chapel Neighborhood News.