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  • Photo courtesy Turnstone Ian Rolland's daughter Carol Rolland, right, talks to visitors at Turnstone during a celebration of life Friday.

  • Photo courtesy Turnstone People gather at Turnstone during a celebration of life for Ian Rolland on Friday. His funeral is today with visitation from 1-2 p.m. Both events are open to the public.

Saturday, July 08, 2017 1:00 am

Rolland recalled as role model by children

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Three of the late Fort Wayne community leader Ian Rolland's five children Friday remembered their father as a good dad – and their family as no different from any other family with a dad who dearly loved his children.

Larry Rolland, 59, of Kokomo, remembered his father as “my rock growing up” during a short session with reporters Friday morning at Turnstone's Plassman Center, hours before the family was to host a public celebration of Ian Rolland's life there.

Carol Rolland, 53, of Fort Wayne, called her father her support as a single parent and a role model for her children. And Ian Rolland's oldest child, Cheri Stone, 60, of Columbus, Indiana, remembered her father as having a sly sense of humor she appreciated more and more as she grew into adulthood.

“We could always make fun of him,” she said. “As he got more important, we always said, 'Someone has to bring you down, make your head smaller' – and he could give it back at us as well. But we always knew he was there for us.”

Rolland, former president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Lincoln National Corp. and benefactor of dozens of civic causes, died Saturday at age 84 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

His funeral will be 2 p.m. today at Turnstone with a calling hour starting at 1 p.m. Those wishing to attend are asked to park at Memorial Coliseum and take a shuttle to the facility.

Friday's celebration of Rolland's life, an open house at Turnstone that began at noon, included photos, memorabilia and ice cream, Rolland's favorite treat, for attendees. Kenna Davis, Turnstone communications specialist, said in an email that about 800 people had attended the event by 7 p.m.

His children said his favorite flavor was peppermint, and he managed to have some ice cream the night before he died. A favorite family story they recalled was that their father, disappointed at not being able to have ice cream after a dinner at Fort Wayne's Rib Room, bought the restaurant a freezer after he was told that was why ice cream wasn't served there.

Friday's attendees were able to choose from pink peppermint and mint chocolate chip, as well as vanilla, chocolate, black cherry and cheesecake. 

Robert Gardner and wife Mary Ann had just finished their cups of vanilla as they recalled how Rolland recruited Robert Gardner after he got out of the Air Force to an early position at Lincoln involving computers.

“He put me in a position to make things happen in the company,” he said, adding that as much as Rolland was astute in business matters, he was a people person at heart.

At lunchtime, Gardner, 76, recalled, “He was always sitting with somebody. He didn't sit up in his office. When you were around him, you always felt like you were home.”

Sister M. Elise Kriss, president of the University of Saint Francis, said she was struck by the same quality in her more than three decades of knowing Rolland as a benefactor and supporter of the university.

“I was always intrigued by how he was so engaged with the University of Saint Francis, but … I always considered our relationship more of a friendship,” she said. “I just remember that friendly little smile.”

She recalled that the doors of Rolland's lake house on Lake Wawasee “were always open” and she would often visit.

He and wife Miriam, known as Mimi, “were always very welcoming. That I will miss.”

Rolland's children said their mother is holding up and has expressed relief that her husband is free from the suffering he endured near the end. They said the family enjoyed reliving parts of their father's life, going through myriad awards, photos and other items to prepare for the services.

The children, including Bob Rolland, 55, of Columbus, Ohio, and Sara Moore, 44,of Fishers, remain “a strong family,” Stone said. They said they were happy part of their father's legacy is a family foundation that will continue his and his wife's charitable work.

But, said Carol Rolland, who fought to hold back tears during her time with reporters, “We've lost a lot.”    

rsalter@jg.net