BROOKFIELD – With a series of health ailments and a wife slipping into dementia, Walter Roob could find several reasons to be miserable.
But the Brookfield resident and retired portrait studio owner instead decides to live each day with joy and purpose. Roob, 88, said he accomplishes this by attempting to fulfill the needs of others and is never bashful to offer up a prayer.
Roob, who lived in and out of nursing homes and hospitals five years ago because of a series of serious conditions, said he has witnessed first-hand how powerful and important prayer is.
“It wasn’t looking good for a while, but today I have a stack of antibiotics and am being kept alive,” Roob said. “I’m just thrilled to be here because I’m having fun, and I love to share in that fun. I do whatever I can.”
More recently, Roob said he truly is attempting to live each day with as much vigor as he can muster. He has created a personal ministry to share the love of Christ with anyone he encounters. Roob also visits venues – including rehabilitation centers and children’s hospitals – where he can encourage and pray with people.
“For me, the blessing of meeting someone new and different all the time is really remarkable,” Roob said. “You’d be amazed at the sensitivity of God’s love when you communicate with people, discover their needs and pray for them.”
At times, Roob said he witnesses sobering reminders of the fragility of life. Case in point: While attending a recent blessing of the sick at St. James Parish, Menomonee Falls, Roob met a 3-year-old boy with a serious condition.
“When you have 20 or 30 people laying hands on someone, praying for them, the fruits of the faith are incredible,” Roob said.
Roob also has been using parish bulletins as a mechanism for prayer and, at times, providing encouragement to fellow parishioners over the phone. He follows through with this practice most regularly at St. Joseph Parish, Wauwatosa, where he is able to find contact information for the infirm through a directory of attendees.
Fr. James Kimla, St. Joseph pastor, said Roob has a unique, gentle spirit that lights up the congregation. Once a month, Fr. Kimla has breakfast with Roob and Mary, his wife of 62 years.
“He greets everyone he sees,” Fr. Kimla said of his breakfast outings with the Roobs. “By the time he’s left the room, he has everyone smiling. No one is a stranger to Walter.”
The Roobs have been members of the St. Catherine Parish, Milwaukee, for more than 50 years. But the couple are involved in Catholic churches throughout the area, in part so they can attend Mass every day.
“Rarely do we miss daily Mass,” Roob said. “It’s important and is a great opportunity for me to count my many blessings.”
In addition to his personal prayer and encouragement ministry, Roob also is active in a number of organizations. A longtime harmonica player, he is a member of the Milwaukee Harmonica Club and shares his musical talents frequently at Masses. He also takes part in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
Roob said he and Mary make it a point to sit down at least once a month and have dinner with all nine of their children.
“We made a commitment a long time ago to make that a priority,” he said.