SNOW HILL — On Tuesday, just two days after his 55th birthday, Bill Rolig, a Snow Hill resident with a passion for art, music and family, succumbed to his two-year battle with prostate cancer.
Back in 2010, the lower shore community rallied to support Rolig, who was shockingly diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Two separate benefits at The Globe in Berlin and at Seacrets in Ocean City hosted pack houses as residents turned out to raise thousands of dollars for Rolig’s treatment, which would eventually take him on an alternative route to Mexico after hearing of another success story.
Rolig was known in the local business world as the manager of Clear Channel Radio’s billboard operation, but it was his personal accomplishments that friends and relatives marveled over this week rather than his professional successes.
“He was a very good father who was deeply sensitive in all matter of life. He and his wife have been together for 30 years and he loved her very much,” said long-time friend and neighbor Mike Armstrong, who has known Rolig since he moved to Ocean Pines in 1994 with his wife, Deborah, and two young sons. “They moved to Snow Hill in December of 2006. We missed them so much after living near each other in Ocean Pines all those years that we moved to Snow Hill, too, in February 2007, just two blocks from them. He was too young to die — 55 years old is just way too young.”
The Rolig name is synonymous with art locally as well as regionally. Both he and Deborah have enjoyed critical acclaim for their artistic abilities.
After majoring in painting at the York Academy Arts in York, Pa. and Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Rolig studied with Ann Didusch Schuler and Albert Handel concentrating on pastel portrait painting. His works were exhibited in galleries and shows throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
On he and his wife’s website, Rolig described his art, saying, “I try to bring attention to the beauty of natural sunlight and the play of reflected light in shadow on common, everyday scenes. It all seems to happen in the shadows.”
Bishop’s Stock owner Ann Coates got to know Rolig well when he moved to Snow Hill and began bringing some of his art and his wife Deborah’s works into her gallery on Green Street.
“He’s such a kind and warm person in general, and you saw that in his art. I loved his artwork and he was really an American realist. He looked at how life was and took an image and made it into something incredible and truly amazing,” Coates said.
Artist Kirk McBride first met the Roligs through a group of mutual friends about 15 years ago. He said Rolig had an affable personality that was immediately admired by those he met.
“People who got to meet Bill and spent a little bit of time with him just instantly adored him,” McBride said. “He was the definition of a good person. He was such a nice and generous person. That was how he lived his life right up to the end.”
Even in his final days, Coates marveled over Rolig’s strength and the importance of being a mentor to his sons.
“Bill lived each day fully and as he was reaching the end of his life he was not giving in at all,” she said. “He knew what was happening. He was aware of his fate, but he was cognizant of everything going on around him. He was giving his boys life’s lessons right up until the end. He was just a wonderful dad and a tremendous advisor and counsel to them.”
Although his background is in art, Rolig’s favorite hobby was perhaps music. Rolig’s love of music was shared with his sons, Tyler and Ryan, when they were young boys. His early teachings can be pointed to as one of the reasons for the success of the local band Lower Class Citizens, which features Ryan Rolig as lead vocalist, Tyler Rolig on bass, Bill Todd as lead guitarist and Ernie Emerson on drums.
Years later, there was no bigger supporter of his sons’ band than Rolig.
“He taught those boys at an early age how to play guitar and a true appreciation of music. Bill and Deb are so encouraging of their sons and support them in what they love doing,” McBride said. “He would play guitar every morning before going to work and in the evenings. He rarely missed one of his sons’ bands shows, even though they didn’t come on till midnight and he had to work the next morning. It’s just the way they were.”
Armstrong, a musician, said it was music that initially brought he and Rolig so close after the family moved to Ocean Pines. Rolig’s specialty, according to Armstrong, was acoustic slide guitar.
“Their sons and my son were great friends. We both had an interest in our kids, of course, but also music. Bill was good at everything, but he was a very good and skilled guitar player. It turned out our wives met each other and they really got along, too … Long story short, we basically raised our kids together,” Armstrong said.
Coates said the 5th Annual Snow Hill Blues Jam in Snow Hill on April 20 will include a musical tribute to Rolig as well as Bob Gordon, who passed away in late 2011. It’s fitting because Rolig played a major role in the annual event, sponsored by Snow Hill’s Arts and Entertainment group.
“We always end the event with a great jam and we want that to be a special tribute to him this year,” Coates said.