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Program to honor Rogers, Williams

BRADENTON — Their age gap is great.

Their life eras are separated by decades.

One lived well into his 60s; the other’s life was cut short before his 10th birthday.

Both Stacy Williams III, 9, and Garfield DeVoe Rogers, 66, have had a lasting impact on the Bradenton community. And next month community members will gather and celebrate their lives at G.D. Rogers Gardens Elementary, Manatee County School District’s newest school.

A daylong event Aug. 22 will include an open house at the school, 515 13th Ave. W.

Festivities that day begin with a 9:30 a.m. freedom walk from a graveyard on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue East to the school, says local resident Robert Dunlap, who submitted Rogers’ name for the school.

From 10 a.m. to noon, children can meet teachers, and parents who haven’t yet registered their children can sign up, says school Principal Wendy Herrera.

Tours of the school also will be given.

Food including hot dogs and chips will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and representatives from the event’s sponsors including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bradenton police will be on hand.

At 7 p.m., a formal program is scheduled in memory of G.D. Rogers, Herrera said. The evening agenda includes a proclamation from the Bradenton City Council and singing by a local church choir. Refreshments will be served.

The school decided to honor both people because they had such a lasting impact on the community.

Stacy, who attended Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School, was killed by a stray bullet fired by a gang member during a May 2007 drive-by shooting.

His death triggered widespread community outrage and the formation of neighborhood groups aimed at fighting gang activity.

G.D. Rogers’ playground on the south side of the school is named after him. It will be dedicated that afternoon, Herrera said.

Herrera, formerly the principal at Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary a few blocks away on 30th Avenue West, said Stacy had been one of her students.

“So this is kinda neat, because I get to bring Stacy with me,” she said.

Before he died in 1951, Rogers was an icon to the black community in central Bradenton. A prominent businessman, he helped raise money for Manatee County’s first school for blacks and the 13th Avenue Community Center.

The school was named after him last summer. Set to open in August, the elementary will be the district’s first certified green school.