Paul Anthony Roll
Paul Anthony Roll, respected Bartlesville businessman and humanitarian, passed peacefully in his home Wednesday, August 23, 2017 surrounded by his loving family. Paul was a devoted husband and father, and life-long supporter of performing arts and charitable groups. While he strongly believed “charity begins at home,” he was passionate about supporting broader humanitarian projects that focused on health and education. Paul is perhaps best known locally as the founder of Heritage Villa Nursing Center and Phoenix Insurance agency.
Paul was born December 18, 1917 into a deeply devout, French-German Catholic family, the eleventh of twelve children in Natrona, Pennsylvania. He attended St. Fidelis seminary where he studied Latin, Greek, German, a rigorous math curriculum and classical studies, which began his search in determining his personal journey.
He moved to Florida where he was employed by Pan American Airways in their South American operations, flying on Sikorsky amphibious planes into Manaus, Brazil on the Amazon River and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Paul wanted to serve his country as a pilot during WWII and joined the Army Air Corps; however the war ended before he completed pilot training. Subsequently he worked for Braniff Airways and helped open their Lima, Peru station. While working out of Dallas he met American Airlines stewardess Narnie Woddail. Both Paul and Narnie had near-misses in their aviation careers – Paul was almost killed by a plane propeller during pilot training, and Narnie traded flights with a stewardess who was killed when the flight crashed. Paul’s thoughtful flowers to Narnie warmed her heart and their courtship blossomed into love, 67 years of marriage, three children and four grandchildren.
Paul and Narnie married July 29, 1950 in Dallas, TX where Paul established Fidelity Underwriters, an insurance agency exclusively serving military personnel. His insurance career took them to Houston where daughter Lisa was born; and back to Dallas where son Kevin and daughter Lori were born. Expanding his insurance business, he moved the family to Tulsa in 1956 where his offices occupied the 9th floor of the Mayo Building. Paul was named in the 1964-65 Tulsa Who’s Who. He was first President of Tulsa Civic Ballet, and was named by then Oklahoma Governor Dewey Bartlett to chair the “Four Moons” Ballerina Festivals in Tulsa and Oklahoma City honoring the Five Civilized Tribes.
In 1963 Paul saw an opportunity and took a leap of faith to purchase Heritage Hall and Heritage House nursing homes in Bartlesville. The operation of those two homes inspired Paul to spend the next 53 years caring for the elderly. In 1969, he built Heritage Manor Nursing Center, adding 35 innovative, independent living apartments connected to the nursing home to bring additional services and security to elderly residents. Heritage Apartments were one of the first assisted living facilities in the state. After commuting from Tulsa for ten years, Paul moved the family to Bartlesville in 1973.
In 1985, Paul completed construction of Heritage Villa Nursing Center. He reduced his license for Heritage Villa from 126 to 100 beds, creating the required skilled capacity to enable neighboring Green Country Retirement Village to open. “I wanted it to be built for the good of the community,” he said.
Paul’s business career spanned 53 years providing care for elders and 68 years in the insurance industry. Paul was on the Oklahoma State Board of Nursing Home Administrators for eight years and was invited to attend international conferences in Russia, China and other countries. He was on the founding board for Tri County Technology Center’s nursing programs, and personally supported dozens of nurses via scholarships to complete their training.
A Rotarian for 46 years, Paul was President of Bartlesville Rotary Club 1992-93, a Paul Harris Fellow and 2002 Chairman of Rotary Polio Plus Committee, when he sponsored the inoculation of one hundred thousand children against polio. He participated in the worldwide Rotary Water Project, sponsoring five water wells to bring clean water to five Central American villages.
Ardent supporters of the arts and humanities, the Paul A. Roll Family was named a Legacy Family in 2015 by the Bartlesville Community Foundation. Paul and Narnie donated a downtown building to create Theater Bartlesville’s first permanent home, and a second building to assist in Eldercare’s early capital expansion. They were members of the committee responsible for launching the OK Mozart Festival 32 years ago. Paul was past President of the Bartlesville Ballet and the Bartlesville Arts and Humanities Council.
Paul’s motto for life was “One day at a time,” which he exemplified each day with peaceful strength, dignity and compassion. His philosophy and legacy was the essence of the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Paul was deeply patriotic, a past Commander of the American Legion and grateful to be a citizen of the United States. It was with great pride that he celebrated his 100th Fourth of July this summer.
His family and friends fondly recount Paul’s kind spirit and genuine interest in the individuals he met over the years and his lasting impact on their lives. He was known as a man of few words, but when he spoke you wanted to listen; he believed patience and respect could solve most any battle; he spoke softly yet with authority; and proved that when you think you can’t go on, take a step back and tackle the things you never thought possible.
Paul is survived by his wife Narnie Roll; daughter Lisa Roll and husband Rod Harwood; son Retired USAF Col. Kevin Roll and children Jonathan, Justin, and Jessica; daughter Lori Roll and son Kade Skoog; cousin Judy Boudreaux and husband Vel; sister-in-law Litha Woddail; nephew Greig Woddail and wife Jan; cousin Narnie McCahan and husband Dave; and cousin Martin Dahl and wife Lynda.
Paul was preceded in death by his father, John Joseph Roll; his mother, Otellia Cecelia Roll; and 11 siblings.
The Roll family would like to thank the many individuals who devoted so much time and love caring for Paul, including our exceptional staff of caregivers, Heritage Villa Nursing Center staff, physicians, nurses and dear friends.
A Celebration of Life is being held Saturday, September 9th at 2:00 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 210 E. 9th in Bartlesville, OK. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The American Red Cross or a.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Arnold Moore & Neekamp Funeral Home. Online condolences may be left at www.honoringmemories.com.