Roger L. Sawyer

Roger L. Sawyer, serving as best man at his brother’s wedding two years ago.

GUILDERLAND — Roger L. Sawyer was an “explosive,” “spectacular” wrestler, but, off the mat, was kind and compassionate to everyone he met, including strangers, his friends and family recalled.

Mr. Sawyer, a bicyclist, was killed in a traffic accident on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. He was 30.

He was born on Oct. 29, 1986 in Dover, Delaware, and his family soon moved to Guilderland. Mr. Sawyer graduated with honors in 2005 from Guilderland High School. As a teenager, he volunteered at the Guilderland Center Fire Department, said his mother, Patricia Sawyer. He also played football throughout his high-school years.

By all accounts, he was a gifted wrestler. He started as a child in the Pee-Wee league and continued through his several years of at the State University of New York College at Brockport.

At wrestling tournaments all over the state, said Regan Johnson, who is now the Guilderland School District’s athletic director and was a wrestling coach for many years, including of the high school varsity team, “People used to go to his match to watch him compete. His style was very fun.”

Mr. Sawyer epitomized “the way the sport’s supposed to be done,” Mr. Johnson said: “He made it fun to watch as a spectator. He never did anything half-speed. He had one gear, and it was fast. Didn’t matter if you were one of the best wrestlers or one of the newer, he just had one speed.”

From the first whistle, Mr. Johnson said, “He was all over you. You couldn’t shake him.” As a result, “Not a lot of our guys liked to wrestle him in the practice room, because he was relentless. He was not fun to wrestle, which is how it’s supposed to be.”

Mr. Sawyer was a Section II champion and went to the state tournament, said Mr. Johnson, but, in a scramble during his first match, his opponent inadvertently elbowed him in the face and dislocated his jaw. He was treated at the hospital and returned to continue competing in the tournament, Mr. Johnson said, but didn’t get the result he had hoped for.

Mr. Sawyer wrestled and won in the Empire State Games while in college, his mother said.

Jason Spector, who now teaches and coaches in South Glens Falls, was the junior varsity and assistant varsity coach at Guilderland for years and, along with Mr. Johnson, coached all four boys in the Sawyer family for years. He called Roger Sawyer “across-the-board tough as nails and strong as an ox, but agile and athletic.”

Mr. Spector said that all of the Sawyer boys were “very competitive athletes” but called Roger Sawyer “one of the most gifted young men I’ve ever worked with.” He would do things on the mat that were “awe-inspiring,” Mr. Spector said, and was “quite famous” in the wrestling community.

Despite his dominance on the mat, Mr. Sawyer was loyal and sweet, Spector said, and, like the rest of his family, down-to-earth.

Mr. Spector recalled that Mr. Sawyer would work with him during the summer, building stone walls. He said they would spend the days moving heavy cobblestones, piling them by hand into buckets and then carrying them over to set them, one by one, into a wall. It was intense labor, yet, when they were finished with one part of the task, Mr. Spector would look over and see Mr. Sawyer moving along in a “bear crawl,” hands and feet on the ground, he said, as extra training for wrestling.

“He would always do feats of strength,” Mr. Spector said. “If you said it was too heavy, he’d try to pick it up.

“That’s the kind of energy this kid had,” Mr. Spector continued. “You couldn’t slow him down. In school, we had to direct a lot of that energy.”

J. P. Hulslander, who wrestled with Mr. Sawyer from the Pee-Wee program through college at SUNY Brockport called his friend “one of the baddest, toughest dudes you know.” Mr. Sawyer was “a monster on the mat,” Mr. Hulslander said, “but a kitty-cat off it, a big teddy bear.”

While in high school, Mr. Sawyer helped out with the elementary-school wrestling program, teaching techniques to younger children, said Mr. Johnson, who remains very close with his family, from years of coaching all four Sawyer boys. He also recalled how gentle Mr. Sawyer was with Mr. Johnson’s young sons, when they would come to matches.

 

Enterprise file photo — Tim Matteson 
Known as a gifted wrestler, Roger Sawyer is shown here in 2004, taking control of his opponent in the quarterfinal match at the Section II Division I tournament. 

He was a favorite of his nieces and nephew. “He was their toy,” said his mother. “It was always, ‘Uncle Rog, play with my toys with me,’ or ‘Uncle Rog, ride bikes with me.’ He was there, you know?”

Amy Carmel, long-time employee of Marcella’s Appliance Center on Broadway in Schenectady, said that Mr. Sawyer worked in the warehouse for the last two or three years. He was “loyal and determined” who would “do anything for anybody,” she said. His work was installing appliances, she said. He was the person that everyone would go to when they needed something done, she said, because he was reliable and always willing to help.

Ms. Carmel said that Mr. Sawyer rode his bicycle every day, driving as far as the Capital District Transportation Authority bus stop to take the bus and that he would leave his home early every day to make sure he was on time for the bus.

He would often stop to help stranded motorists, his mother said, although he himself was on a bicycle. Recently he stopped when he saw an older man whose car had broken down on the roundabout on Fuller Road and I-90 in Albany, she said. Mr. Sawyer asked him if he had a jack, and, when the man said he did not, Mr. Sawyer called his father and asked him to bring one, and then changed the man’s tire for him.

“There’ll never be another one like him,” said Mr. Johnson.

****

Roger Sawyer is survived by his parents, Clarence “Skip” Sawyer Jr. and Patricia Sawyer; by his brothers, Richard Sawyer; Clarence “Skippy” III and his fiancée, Kayla Sidoti; Josh Sawyer and his wife, Tiffany; by his stepbrother, Jason Sawyer, and stepsister, Jessica Yanko; and by his cousin, Michael Cyr. He is also survived by his nieces and nephew, Savannah, Austin, Peyton, Dakota, Paisley, and Autumn, and by many aunts, uncles, and cousins.  

Arrangements are by New Comer Cremations & Funerals. Mourners may visit www.NewComerAlbany to leave messages of condolence for the family.  

Calling hours will be held at the funeral home at 343 New Karner Rd., Colonie, on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 from 4 to 7 p.m. A funeral service will follow at 7 p.m. at the funeral home. Burial will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, 139 South Lake Ave., Albany, New York 12208; please specify that the donation should benefit the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Albany Medical Center.

— Elizabeth Floyd Mair

More Obituaries

  • ALTAMONT — Dr. Alan J. Fogel — a doctor with a caretaker’s soul whose greatest joy was his family — died unexpectedly at his home on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. He was 66.

  • Anita Caroline Marrone

    WESTERLO — Anita Caroline Marrone of Westerlo — an ebullient woman who put her boundless energies into the care of her family and town — died peacefully in the presence of loved ones on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. She was 77.

  • Victor L. Blanchet

    BERNE — Victor L. Blanchet was a rugged individualist.

    “He was well read. He liked to philosophize. He was a deep thinker,” said his nephew, Robert Blanchet. “He never had a bad word to say about anything … The word that describes him best is ‘unique.’”

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.