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Retired Kidspot cartoonist Dick Rogers sits in front of the drafting desk where he spent most of his life hand-drawing comic strips. (Kevin Johnson/Sentinel)

SCOTTS VALLEY -- The same day Dick Rogers retired, he went in for an emergency surgery for his gallbladder. After more than 50 years of drawing comics, one can't help but wonder if the 83-year-old's body was telling him it was time to put down the pencil.

After five days in the hospital, though, the Scotts Valley resident was ready to leave.

"I don't like being in hospitals; it's like being in jail," Rogers said.

Perhaps Rogers just isn't used to idle time.

Rogers drew the popular syndicated panel comic "KidSpot" from 1985 until a few months ago. Before that, he was the brains behind the kid-focused "Johnny Wonder," a regular educational feature that included puzzles and word games that ran from 1970 to 1995. During his heyday, Rogers worked 60 to 70 hours per week, sketching out original frames and games for kids.

While Rogers was always drawn to drawing, he particularly remembers an instance in his elementary school class.

"The teacher put my work on the bulletin board because it was good," Rogers said. "It was a green cow with purple udders. They were the only colors I had."

After graduating from Santa Cruz High School, Rogers went to Cabrillo College, then San Jose State, working toward a bachelor's degree in commercial drawing. He never graduated, though, instead serving in the Navy for fours years in Korea.

Once he returned, Rogers decided to delve into drawing, assisting eminent cartoonists such as George Crenshaw of the feature "Belvedere."

"I learned quite a bit of syndicated cartooning from him," Rogers said. "I got into the business by assisting other commercial artists."

Rogers and his wife Alma Rogers moved into their Scotts Valley home in 1974. Rogers has a room to research, sketch and ink in.

"This is where I spent the past half of my life," Rogers said on a recent Friday as he walked into the paneled room.

He created comics weeks in advance, making sure that the syndicator always had six weeks of material. Since retiring two months ago, Rogers has started getting rid of his three encyclopedia sets and other research material he used for the riddles in his comics.

"All of these shelves were jammed with encyclopedias," Rogers said. "It's a quick and easy reference. I find answers easier in a book than on a computer."

When asked if he had any other hobbies, Rogers stopped and thought for a moment.

"Just drawing," Rogers said. "It was a hobby to begin with, and then it became a job."

Follow Sentinel reporter Bonnie Horgos on Twitter at Twitter.com/bhorgos

GETTING TO KNOW

Dick Rogers


Born: June 19, 1929, in Tulare
Family: Wife Alma, children Sandra and Greg, grandchildren Amanda and Gregory
Education: Mission Hill Middle School, Santa Cruz High School, Cabrillo College, San Jose State
First job: Rogers delivered the Santa Cruz Sentinel while a student at Mission Hill Middle School. 'They don't really start that young anymore.'
Spare change: While a student, Rogers used to get paid 81 cents per comic for San Jose State's student newspaper. 'It wasn't really a lot, was it?'
Staying active: Rogers used to golf three times per week, but hasn't golfed in two months due to surgery. Still, he has a golf club and 11 balls sitting in his home office.
Collecting: Rogers has a large collection of original comics including 'The Flintstones,' 'Popeye' and 'Li'l Abner.' 'A bunch of us comics used to get together and raffle them off.