Remembering our senator

Old friends recall Sen. Roger Jepsen as energetic campaigner


Scott County residents remember an energetic, outgoing Roger Jepsen who barnstormed his way from a Scott County board seat to a term in the U.S. Senate.

Among his boldest moves was serving two terms as lieutenant governor, then challenging his popular incumbent boss Gov. Robert Ray in the 1972 GOP primary.

“That was a sticky wicket,” longtime friend Carol Schaefer remembered. “He was more conservative than Ray, and that drew a lot of interest.”

Jepsen lost his bid for governor, but immediately set his sights on Sen. Chuck Culver’s seat, and won it in 1978.

A young Carol Schaefer was his wheelman in the senate race.

“He was an excellent extemporaneous speaker.  He was very cordial and polite with crowds and answered questions directly. If he disagreed, he would respect your position, but clearly state his own,” said Schaefer, who also served as Scott County supervisor.

The pair rambled across the state in a station wagon packed with literature, signs and banners. Schaefer recalls the candidate napping between stops, then bursting out of the car to greet voters. Later, Schaefer joined a Quad-City delegation that was the Jepsens' guest at Ronald Reagan's inauguration.

Jepsen served one term in the Senate and lost his reelection bid to Tom Harkin. President Reagan appointed Jepsen head of the National Credit Union Administration Board, where he served from 1985-1993.

He and his wife, Dee, retired to Port Charlotte, Fla., until he moved back to Scott County to be closer to family. He was living at Eldridge’s Grand Haven Retirement Community before moving to Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House, where he died Nov. 13.

His wife, Dee, remains in Scott County. Their son, Craig, and wife, Pat, live in Long Grove. Daughters Debbie Geisler and Ann Carruthers live in Davenport. Son Jeffrey is in Annandale, Va. He left nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities, which Jepsen and his daughter Debbie Geisler actively supported.

Close family friend Carol Fennelly said Jepsen was the one who not only convinced her late husband to enter politics; Jepsen convinced lifelong Irish Democrat Bill Fennelly to run as a Republican.

Jepsen was a customer at Bill Fennelly’s River Drive service station in Davenport. “He  was always motivating people to get involved,” Carol Fennelly said.

She flew with Dee Jepsen across the state during Roger’s senate and governor campaigns.

And she credits Roger Jepsen with the Fennelly campaign jingle Carol will never forget: “F-E-double-N-E-L-L-Y spells Fennelly," she sang. "He said we needed a jingle.” The catchy tune played endlessly on local radio during campaigns.

Jepsen's family planned a private service at Runge Mortuary. Jepsen will be buried with military honors at Davenport’s Memorial Park Cemetery. A public celebration of life service will be scheduled later.