Saturday, September 30, 2023


By Tim Rohr

For several years I have been dropping "family stories" in Facebook posts and other online places, but thought I'd start sharing some of those stories here on JungleWatch - given the much wider readership: the tens of thousands of views JW receives every thirty days. 

I share these stories only in the hope of encouraging others who have families and who know the struggle...and also to use JW for more than just the "bad news" it has become famous for!

To begin, here's a story I shared on FB on the occasion of my eldest daughter's birthday in 2022. The FB post with comments is linked here. But in case some day the link may not work, the post is copied below. 


In another post, I wished my daughter, Michelle, happy birthday. But thought I'd share a few more things about her here.

Like many modern parents, my thinking at the time was “two is enough.” And since we had a boy and a girl, it seemed like Michelle was a perfect place to stop. As it turned out, God had other plans.

For the first several years of family life, things were smooth. Guam was in an economic boom and we were riding the wave like a lot of other people. So finding that we were expecting another child, and then another, and then another…all the way to number 7, was not a big deal.

But in 1997, and with number 7, things in Guam were in for a big change.

The Japanese investment bubble (late 80’s to early 90’s) had already burst and Guam had begun to feel the hit. At the same time Bill Clinton decided we didn’t need so many military bases, and Guam really felt that hit with both base closures and major military downsizing.

We lost about 75% of our income between 1997 and 2001. And then 9/11 pretty much wiped us out altogether just as we birthed our 9th child (Dominic).

By then, many people in Guam had begun relocating to the states. But we stayed. I don’t remember why. We were in danger of losing everything and the future looked bleak for a long time to come.

By 2004 we were really in trouble.

My wife and I had been burning the candle at both ends to feed our family, which by then numbered 11, but things weren’t getting any better.

Meanwhile, we had lost our health insurance due to weird complications of my going back to work as a teacher for awhile. And then we found out we were expecting — once again.

I know, I know. Birth control and all that. But No. 10 turned out to be William. And what would I do without him today. William’s birth complications set us back nearly 100k and we had no insurance. It was an unbelievable time.

But this is when Michelle, then-16, really showed herself to be a blessing to our family.

There is not the space to tell all she did. You’ll have to wait for the book for that. So I’ll just tell you the one thing that stands out most in my memory.

In order to survive, our family did many things. One of those things was to begin a business selling Catholic books. Many remember our days as a retail store in shopping malls and commercial spaces, but we began that business by selling books after Masses on Sunday at different parishes.

In order to have our tables and books set up before the first Mass on Sundays, we had to be ready by 6am.

Michelle was the only child really able to help me. (Timmy had a job working at the ship repair facility.) So I had to get Michelle out of bed at 4am, load hundreds of books into my vehicle, tie tables onto the top, and trek off to whatever church was on schedule for that Sunday.

We worked like crazy to set up the display before the first Mass let out. I was usually a stressed out mess, finding a location that would avoid the usual rain, making sure we had enough change, seeing to the receipt books, making sure we had enough tarps to cover the tables when the rain came, etc.

Meanwhile, Michelle calmly took over, beautifully arranged the books, and most importantly, calmly engaged the customers in a way I never could. (All my children possessed a calm that I never had.) Sometimes we would stay all day in order to catch the Sunday night Masses. Making it a 16 hour day sometimes.

And then when we got home, we would have to spend another couple of hours, doing inventory and reconciling the cash box.

It was very hard. And I remember losing my temper a couple times due to all that stress. But Michelle stayed calm.

That little book business was the difference between us losing our home and keeping it. Later, when we began our retail outlet in the Agana Shopping Center, Michelle figured out all the displays and ran the register and customer service on most days.

She did much more than that, including running our cafe (The Basilica Cafe) at the Cathedral, but that would take even more space to write about. I think I have a picture of her taking a break.

In short, Michelle gave her life for our family, especially after we found out we were expecting number 11 (Gianna), and Michelle, away at college in Ohio at the time, gave up her education to come home to help…once again.

Thank you, Michelle. Today, she is one of the most successful people I’ve ever known even though, or maybe because, she always put herself second. 

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