Repairing the hardware man

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Don Roth and his store, Roth Hardware in Old Ilmo, are Scott City fixtures, beloved and depended on by many in the community who grew up buying their nuts and bolts from him while receiving friendly advice and help for free.

So it may not be surprising that when Roth, 61, became seriously ill and entered Southeast Missouri Hospital 11 weeks ago, the Scott City community has rallied to his support.

It was a surprise to Roth.

"I didn't expect it," he said. "The truth of the matter is we needed the help. I truly appreciate it. It's mighty, mighty thoughtful for the community to do something like this."

Dave Eades, who has worked in the hardware store part time during the school year and full time during summers for six years, said it is easy to understand why Roth has received so much support. "He's just a good guy," "He'd break his back to do anything for anybody."

Which is why many people were concerned when they noticed Roth's physical condition deteriorating earlier this year as he lost weight and energy.

"He was under 110 pounds before he went to the hospital," Eades said. "People would take us aside and ask us what was wrong with him."

By the beginning of June, Roth was so malnourished that his primary care physician, Dr. Kenneth DeCoursey, told him to go to the hospital. DeCoursey's first concern was that Roth was possibly suffering from colon cancer, but that was soon ruled out.

Now the doctor believes Roth's recent illness is due to a case of the mumps he had a few years ago that affected his pancreas's ability to produce digestive enzymes. Adults who have the mumps tend to be prone to complications, DeCoursey said.

Roth was facing just the beginning of his health problems when he entered the hospital. He developed a blood clot in his leg, and a part of the clot traveled to his lungs. He came down with pneumonia and he developed a staph infection from the feeding tube line to his neck. All the antibiotics he was taking caused a fungal infection.

"It was a vicious cycle," DeCoursey said. "With every step forward, he seemed to take two steps back."

For several weeks, Roth was in the intensive care unit, at times hooked up to a ventilator.

"He's just had so much wrong with him that he's had to overcome," said Roth's sister-in-law, Doris Roth, who also works at Roth Hardware.

One thing he has not had to overcome, however, is a lack of support.

"The fund raising has been going well. It seems like everyone wants to do something for him," Doris Roth said.

She said the Roth family is very appreciate of all the concern people in the community have shown since her brother-in-law became ill. Not only the fund raisers, but the thoughts and prayers of people who want to see Roth back at his hardware store.

"I've been saying that prayer has been what has been getting him through this," she said. "You've got to believe in prayer."

Currently, almost $9,000 has been collected from the various fund-raising efforts. The money is being collected in a bank fund and will be used to help cover his hospital expenses.

The church Don Roth attends, Eisleben Lutheran Church, held a dinner that raised about $3,400 with $1,600, which was matched by the store owner's insurance company, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The Lutheran church's Bible class raised $300. The Scott City Assembly of God Church held a fish fry that brought in $2,200. The Kiwanis Club held a dinner at the Schock Community Arts Center that raised $1,300. And Blair Industries supervisor Vince Fernandez held a barbecue outside the hardware store that raised $700.

There has also been money raised from the sale of smoked meats from Dale and Rick Schlosser and magnets donated by Magna-Tel Inc. president Mary Ann Farmer.

"It's because he's done so much for the community," Eades said of the outpouring of help. "Everybody knows Don because everybody comes to the hardware store."

Hardware since 1946

Roth Hardware has been around since Don Roth's uncle, Raymond Roth, opened it in 1946. Don Roth started working there while he was attending high school, leaving only for a brief stint in the Army. He purchased the store from his uncle in 1977.

Everett Holder, who owns Sportsman's Barber Shop next door to Roth Hardware, has known Don Roth since before he even started working at the hardware store.

"He's just a very caring person," Holder said. "Donnie cares for his community and the people who live in it. There's not that many people like that."

Holder said that over the years, Roth has contributed his time and money to school, church and community organizations in Scott City.

Organizations like the Kiwanis Club of Scott City, where Roth has been a member and occasional president during at least 20 years, recognize his efforts. This year, he was voted Kiwanian of the year.

"He's probably one of the hardest workers we have in the Kiwanis Club," club treasurer Don Swanner said.

The Kiwanis are planning to hold a fund-raising raffle sometime after Labor Day. Raffle tickets will be available at Roth Hardware or through any Scott City Kiwanis member. The raffle winner, who will likely be chosen around the first week of October, will be given a $250 gift certificate to Roth Hardware.

Swanner said Roth is missed very much by the Kiwanis Club and by the community in general, and they all want to see him back at the hardware store.

So would Roth's family.

Running the store without him has been a lot of work, his sister-in-law said. According to Doris Roth, Don Roth would sometimes work seven days a week and late into the night, only to return again at 5 a.m. to open the store.

Since he has been in the hospital, Eades, Don Roth's brother, Ralph Roth, and Jim Strum have handled the customers at the store the best they can, and Doris Roth has taken over the bookkeeping.

It has not been easy.

"We're trying to keep it running," she said. "We're acting like he's on vacation and take it from there."

Roth is also worried about the effect his absence has had on the hardware store.

"I'm so far behind on paperwork I question whether I'll be able to catch up," he said.

According to DeCoursey, it is possible Roth might be leaving the hospital in a matter of days.

"In the last few weeks he's shown quite a bit of progress in his over status," he said. "He's still quite weak from all of this."

Because Roth is still so weak, he will probably go to a nursing facility after he is released from the hospital, where he would remain until he gains his strength back.

"I think he's got a good chance of fully recovering. It's going to take awhile, it won't be quick," DeCoursey said.

kalfisi@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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