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Traveling the road to learning and serving

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John Grogan has lived and worked in Roswell since 1968. He enjoys learning new things and serving the community. (Curtis Michaels Photo)

Curiosity may not be so good for cats, but it’s kept life interesting for John Grogan. If he’s learning something, he’s happy.

“I hated school,” he said, “so I dropped out in 10th grade. I was 18 when I took the GED test. I didn’t study, I just thought I’d try it. My score was high enough that I could get into college. I wanted to study Engineering in Las Cruces. They wanted money I didn’t have, so I started taking correspondence courses. I’ve never regretted it. I didn’t enjoy school. I love to read. I can’t blame the teachers. It was me, not the school system.”

When he left school, Grogan started working as a lineman at New Mexico Electric, in Hobbs. He moved to Southwestern Public Service Company. That job brought his family to Roswell in 1968. It was his growing family that made him want to grow and learn.

“When my daughters were born,” he said, “I decided that I needed to get an education. I started taking correspondence courses. I worked as a Telecommunications Technician. We maintained PBX and microwave systems and inner-company communications systems plus data.”

Grogan was the second of 10 children raised in Eunice, New Mexico. He grew up in the Baptist church — his faith has formed the way he sees the world.

“I was raised Baptist,” he said, “so we joined the Baptist church here and I started teaching a Sunday school class. I started reading the Bible. I found out that the New Testament is an incredibly interesting book. I spent many hours researching doctrine in the New Testament.”

The socio-political climate of the early 2000s inspired Grogan to learn about the Muslim faith. As a Christian, he has grown to respect it.

“After the Iraqi war, I started reading current events,” he said. “I had a Koran here but it’s disappeared. The five pillars of Islam are as good as any Christian teaching is — 90 percent of Muslims live by those teachings. It’s hard for me to grasp that people are so fearful.”

This was also the time he became more politically active.

“In high school, I did a book report on Dwight Eisenhower,” Grogan said. “I’ve been an Eisenhower Republican ever since. From the time World War II ended until Reagan, the parties weren’t that different. The Republican party was more in favor of business, but it was pretty well balanced. Each side kept the other in check. The party moved one way, and I leaned more progressive. When I started reading current events, I learned about income inequality and poverty in the United States. I wouldn’t have even known about it.”

His fascination with science, the empirical process and critical thinking skills helped him to grow into the beliefs he holds now.

“Most of my adult life I’ve read science,” Grogan said. “To me, the world is centered around my life. To picture how things were four billion years ago, during the initial formation of the Earth isn’t easy. The only way I can reconcile it is to say it’s God’s energy converted to mass.

“Every chemical element in space has a distinct wavelength. When it passes through a high energy field, it emits that wavelength. That’s how astronomers figure out what each star is made out of. They analyze all the spectrums. Comets and meteorites have brought everything we need to survive on Earth. All the elements in our bodies came from space. It’s hard to imagine that being true, but it is. I got interested in that. Then I got interested in dowsing.”

His hobby is searching for and studying meteorites. It’s given him a unique perspective on the UFO crash story.

“When I retired, I bought a metal detector,” he said. “Within a month I thought I’d found one. Jim Ragsdale supposedly saw a UFO crash from up in the Capitan Mountains. What gives his story credibility is some of the nuns from St. Mary’s saw the same light. After I read about meteorites, I thought he’d seen a meteorite fall. I like to be outside. I’ve tracked the debris trail all the way back to where Mac Brazel supposedly found the wreckage. It looks like it split at about Encino and went right over the West of Roswell. I found a nice little piece near Blackdom.”

Service has always been important to Grogan. He was a tutor with the literacy council for years, and he’s been active with Habitat for Humanity for many years now.

“My dad was a carpenter,” he said. “I grew up around building. I enjoy building, so working with Habitat for Humanity, to me is satisfying. They’re super people. I enjoy our partners who help build their houses. They jump in and help. It’s been a good learning experience to see how some of the lesser privileged kids process and survive. They’re good people. That sense of belonging is good for kids particularly. It’s important for adults, too, but kids need to know they’ve got a safe home growing up.”

His brother helped him to think about his compassion in a more critical way.

“My younger brother was a psychiatrist in Minot, North Dakota,” Grogan said. “He died in a plane crash in 1997. The first time he told me that they should legalize all drugs, I said, ‘Then everybody could get them.’ He said, ‘They’re getting them now.’ The Kennedys’ father made his money bootlegging. We could do a lot better.”

Two aspects of modern life that he wishes more people understood are climate change and the national debt. He sees how the two will affect the future, and it does not make him happy.

“It hurts my heart that my grandkids aren’t going to have the life quality that we had,” Grogan said. “When I was 20, I bought my first house. My wife stayed home and took care of the home. That’s not possible now, at least it’s very rare. I was a high school dropout with a GED.

“To me, the sadness of the time is what we’re doing to our future generations. It’s a greed-based cruelty. For what we pay for healthcare, we could pay for all of North America’s healthcare. The cost of healthcare is a huge drain on our economy. That money should be going to consumer products that create growth.”

It’s the ability to think critically that he values so highly.

“M. Scott Peck,” Grogan said, “in his book, ‘The Road Less Traveled,’ said that doing more of something that doesn’t work is never a viable solution to a problem. Over the past 40 years, I have seen this in so many areas of my personal life as well as in the social and political spheres.”