Ethan Roser, known for his ever-present smile, innate kindness and deep love of God, died in a tragic accident April 22 at a Wheaton College athletic event where he was volunteering. Ethan, who transferred to Wheaton in January as a freshman theology student, had a habit of helping others. He died the way he lived his all-too-short life.
Ethan was looking forward to his 20th birthday this summer, along with an opportunity to play soccer at a semi-pro level and work as an intern at a church in Cincinnati.
He was born on July 12, 1997, in Zimbabwe, where his parents, Mark and Patricia Roser of Loveland served as Christian missionaries for 22 years. Ethan was the youngest of the couple’s four tight-knit children and the answer to his parent’s yearning for another child. They considered him a gift from God, and he was the joy of his older siblings: Johnathan and his wife, Holly; Elisha; and Nathan, along with his wife, Perry.
“He just fell out of heaven into our arms,” said the Rev. Mark Roser, the pastor of Global Outreach Church, a diverse Christian community that embraces new American immigrants.
Now, said his brother, Johnathan, “We are in shock and struggling to comprehend how we will live without him.”
Ethan spent the first half of his life in Zimbabwe and showed unusual maturity and wisdom. When his parents first contemplated returning to the U.S., Ethan cried about the prospect of leaving his beloved Africa. "I said, 'It's the people that make the place,'" his father recalled. "And he looked at me and said, 'But the place stays in your heart forever.'"
After moving to the Cincinnati area, where his parents grew up, Ethan fell in love with soccer. At Mason High School, he was a star player and sure to catch the eye of college recruiters. But in his junior year, Ethan required knee surgery after tearing a ligament, his ACL. He was sidelined for months but instead of being angry, Ethan deepened his relationship with God.
His mother said he became committed to spreading the word of Christ’s love to others. He joined the Christian group, Young Life, and planned to follow his father’s footsteps into the ministry. His friends at Mason High and Wheaton said he was passionate about Jesus, his family and his friends.
Though he was at Wheaton for less than five months, his magnetic personality quickly attracted friends who remembered him as fun-loving, encouraging and wise.
In addition to his immediate family, Ethan leaves behind an extended family that includes his grandmother, Anella (Dolly) Roser of Cincinnati, aunts, uncles, cousins and legions of friends who are heartbroken by his loss.
The family is finding comfort in the love and concern shown by others and is very grateful for the support.