When fraternal twins Josephine Raye Jackson and Sarah Faye Jackson were born in Balch, Arkansas, on June 14, 1922, they weighed just 4.5 and 4.25 pounds, respectively. Right away, the two girls were fighters.

“The doctor came in and said that Faye would not live, and that I probably wouldn’t either,” Raye says, recalling the story of her birth.

But Raye’s mother, having wanted a little girl for many years, wasn’t about to let her daughters die.

“So my mother [Minnie Camp Jackson], her side of the family was pretty well-to-do,” says Raye. “She had this huge, beautiful buggy, and she put Faye in one end and me in the other and opened the oven door and improvised an incubator.”

Some 93 years later, Raye remains an elegant picture of strength and beauty. As matriarch of the Rogers family, she — along with her late husband, Doyle — set an example of generosity and kindness that the entire family continues to follow.

Life & Love

Doyle and Raye Rogers started dating when Raye was in her late teens, Doyle in his early 20s and after a 14-month courtship, decided to secretly wed. The pair drove to nearby Walnut Ridge, found a Methodist minister, tied the knot and began their 72-year marriage.

The couple’s first child, Barbara, came three years later. Their son, Doyle “Rog,” came five years after that.

Doyle Sr. worked for the Railway Express for several years, then enlisted to serve under both the Royal Canadian and United States armies during World War II. According to the Doyle Rogers Company website, after he returned to the U.S., the family moved to Batesville, where he lived for 50 years, and where Raye still has a residence.

Doyle founded Doyle Rogers Realty and Insurance Agency (now Doyle Rogers Company) in 1953 as one of the first real estate development companies to offer VA residential loans in Arkansas.

In the years to come, he developed and owned/operated the Excelsior Hotel — which became the Peabody Little Rock and is now the Little Rock Marriott — and the adjoining Statehouse Convention Center. He led the development of the 25-story Rogers Building, now the Stephens Building, as well as many retail centers throughout the country. He also became Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank in 1983 after the acquisition of Metropolitan Bancshares.

He passed away in his sleep at his Batesville home in 2013. He was 94.

“He loved me so much, and I did him. It’s been hard for me. I miss him,” says Raye. “He was a visionary, and I was right there with him. We were a pretty good team. I tell my young friends, ‘You kiss your husband when he leaves and you kiss him when he comes home.’ Just go up and put your hands on his face and say, ‘What would I do without you?’ That’s what I would tell Doyle.”

Legacy of Giving

It goes without saying that the Rogers family is an Arkansas treasure. Doyle and Raye have served on almost too many boards to count, and the family has given millions to education and healthcare in Arkansas.

According to Arkansas Business, in 2001, the couple gave $1 million to the White River Medical Center in Batesville, seed money for what became the Josephine Raye Rogers Center for Women & Imaging. In 2005, the family pledged $1 million to renovate and expand the gymnasium at Lyon College. That project became the Rogers Health & Physical Education Center.

In 2007, the couple, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Paul “Pete” Hoover, and their son and daughter-in-law, Rog and Carolyn Rogers, gave $4 million to UAMS. The money went to build the lobby for the expansion of the UAMS Medical Center and to the Arkansas Cancer Research Center.

In 2009, at the WRCI’s Gala for Life, Raye and Doyle were named Pat and Willard Walker tribute honorees for their lifetime of support.

Raye is a founding member of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Foundation and is as a lifetime board member.

“Mother has been involved with UAMS for a long time,” says Barbara. “She got me involved and we were both on the Cancer Foundation Board. I just finished my term on there, and now I’ve gone on to the Center on Aging. And my brother’s a member of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board.”

Barbara’s late husband, Pete, also served on the UAMS Foundation Fund Board, before he passed away in 2009.

Barbara and Pete met in 1968, on a date set up by Pete’s sister. Barbara was teaching elementary school at the time and Pete was finishing his last year of law school at the University of Arkansas.

“Pete and I went to play tennis with his sister and her husband, and neither one of us could really play tennis,” Barbara laughs, “but we went and played and then we went to Shakey’s to eat pizza. All we did was laugh,” Barbara smiles at the memory.

The couple were married in 1969 in the First United Methodist Church in Batesville, and soon moved to New York, where Pete obtained his master’s degree in tax law. They lived there for a year before returning to Little Rock.

In 1975, they welcomed their daughter, Josie, who is married to Dr. Daniel Felton, a doctor at the Little Rock Family Practice Clinic. The couple has two daughters of their own, Josephine, 10, and Mary Eleanor, 8.

In a decade of covering the Gala for Life, I don’t think I’ve attended a single one where I didn’t see the Rogers, Hoovers and Feltons all in attendance.

“We feel it’s the right thing to do,” says Raye, when asked why her family chooses to support UAMS. “We’ve been so blessed that we’ve had the opportunity to do that.”

A SCARY Diagnosis

Despite all they’d given to UAMS over the years, the Rogers family had no idea what an integral role the Cancer Institute would come to play in their lives.

Then, in 2012, 90-year-old Raye started to have trouble breathing. “I told Barbara and Rog that I just didn’t feel normal,” she remembers.

On one particular night, her vision began to get blurry. Doyle was ill himself, so two next-door neighbors drove her to White River Medical Center, where they did a CT scan. In the meantime, Barbara and Rog had dropped everything and driven to Batesville. The next morning they took Raye to Little Rock, CT scan in hand, to see Dr. Jeanne Wei at the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.

“She’s my friend and my doctor,” Raye says.

Dr. Wei took one look at the scan and sent Raye to the hospital, where they drained the fluid off of her lungs.

“Dr. Kent Westbrook and I go way back, Raye says. “He said, ‘Raye, I don’t like what I see here. When I see blood that comes to the top of the water they took out of your lung, that tells me you have cancer.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Kent, I hope not.’ Well, it was cancer, and I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.”

It was Stage IV, the same type of cancer, even in the same lung, that Raye’s twin sister had died of several years before. Statistically, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Arkansas as well as the U.S.

Raye’s doctors convened at the Rogers’ Little Rock condo to discuss her prognosis.

“They were very forthright, very kind,” Barbara remembers, “but they said, ‘Raye, we think you have maybe eight months to live.’ And my dad was sitting there and he was so weak. Rog and I were afraid we were going to lose them both at the same time. We were devastated.”

“Doyle said he couldn’t live without me, and I said, ‘Honey, I’m not going anywhere,” Raye says. I just said, I’m not going to die.”

Raye’s oncologist, Dr. Konstantinos Arnaoutakis, sent her biopsy to Massachusetts General Hospital, where it was determined she had a receptor for an experimental drug. With nothing to lose, she agreed to try it. A scan six weeks later revealed that her tumor had already started shrinking, Barbara says. “It’s now very small. It will never go away, but it is very tiny.”

Raye’s treatment consists of taking a single pill, every other day.

“They call it specialized medicine,” Raye says. “The whole thing has been a miracle.”

“If you are really sick,” Barbara says, “this is the place to go. We are so lucky in Arkansas. When you walk in at UAMS, if you have a certain condition, they’re not just giving the same drug that they give to everyone else. They have a group of doctors all working together … several minds looking at you instead of just one.”

“Personalized medicine means that we find out which genetic mutations are occurring in a particular patient’s cancer and then match that up with a new therapy that is specifically designed to target that genetic mutation,” says Dr. Peter Emanuel, director of the WRCI. “Most of the new therapies are drastically less toxic compared to chemotherapy. Only a minor percent of lung cancer patients have the type of mutation that Raye Rogers had, so only that few percent will respond to the drug she is on.”

He continues, “However, unless you genetically test a patient’s sample you will never know whether they might be the next medical miracle, like Raye Rogers. Lung cancer is not necessarily a death sentence anymore. While we still have much work to do, lung cancer patients need to get their tumor genetically tested, no matter what their age.”

UAMS offers the most comprehensive genetic testing and personalized medicine capabilities in the state., he says.

Night of Celebration

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Gala for Life, the largest annual fundraiser for the WRCI. The event will be held at 6:30 p.m., Friday Oct. 2, at the Statehouse Convention Center and will feature cocktails, a seated dinner and dancing to the music of Groove Merchants.

A “celebration of life and hope,” the special anniversary event will be presented by the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation and will honor all cancer survivors.

There will be a video highlighting survivors as well as a mass butterfly release to recognize those who have lost their battles with cancer.

Net proceeds from the evening will benefit the Lung Cancer Program and other cancer initiatives at the WRCI.

It should be noted that Raye has attended all but two of the Galas for Life over the years and has plans to attend this year, alongside Barbara and family. But as a cancer survivor treated at the Cancer Institute, this year’s celebration of life and hope will be even more meaningful. A true philanthropist, Raye hopes that someone else, even one person, can gain something from her experience.

“I would do anything to help someone who has cancer,” she says. “When you hear the ‘c’ word, you just give up sometimes. I feel that maybe the Lord has used me as a vessel to give hope to someone else. I really feel that that’s why I’m still here.”

Gala for Life
When/ 6:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2  

Where/ Statehouse Convention Center  

Tickets + info/ TheGalaForLife.com