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FAMILY REMEMBERS WOMAN'S JOY AND ANGUISH
MARY CHARLENE ROWLAND'S BODY WAS FOUND IN ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, 13 WEEKS AFTER SHE WALKED AWAY FROM A PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL.

By TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER tmorgan@leader.net

Saturday, March 29, 2003     Page: 2A

KINGSTON - William Rolland III has carried the letter from his mother in his wallet for five years.
    ``The scriptures say a wise son is a blessing and honor to his mother,'' the letter says. ``Without a doubt, you are these to me.''
    The message was written by William's mother Mary Charlene Rolland on Valentine's Day 1998. It was a time, family members say, when Mary Charlene suffered from deep depression that would land her in Clarks Summit State Hospital in July 2002.
    On Friday, William held that letter in his hand as he and his, brothers Tommy and Robert, sifted through family photos that would make up a collage at their mother's funeral today.
    The 51-year-old Plains Township woman's body was discovered Wednesday off Interstate 81 in Abington Township, 13 weeks after she walked away from the psychiatric hospital.
    The discovery ends the family's search, but not their anguish as they contemplate the tragic ending of a life that once was so full of joy.
    ``My mother, she always put everybody's needs before her own,'' William, 27, said in an interview at his father's North Gates Avenue home in Kingston. ``She always had a heart for people and reached out to people less fortunate. She'd go to the welfare office with them, walk them through getting medical coverage.''
    That's the woman William said he wants people to remember - the one who fought through her own depression to provide warmth, love and devotion to her family and others.
    Mary, or ``Char,'' as she preferred to be called, had a degree in social work, but left the work force to devote herself to raising her family. Devoutly religious, she was deeply involved with her church.
    She was also a talented writer, and took great joy in writing the inspirational messages and poems for family members.
    Just as William cherishes his letter, Tommy, 22, treasures ``Running Fast,'' a poem his mother wrote that touches on the fear of thunder and lightning he had as a child. A copy of the poem is encased in a frame along with a painting Mary Charlene commissioned that shows Jesus Christ at Tommy's side as a child and adult.
    But the joy Rolland brought to others eluded her in recent years as the depression that dogged her all her life deepened, said her sister, Linda McGeehan.
    ``It was positively devastating,'' said McGeehan, 52, of West Wyoming. ``We were very supportive and we loved her dearly, but it was a struggle, an absolute struggle. It seemed nothing we did or said helped.''
    McGeehan said she believes the depression increased as Mary Charlene's children grew and became less dependent upon her. ``She totally devoted herself to her home and raising her children,'' McGeehan said. ``She was never able to transition from that role she so strongly endeared for over 20 years.
    In July, the family said problems worsened to the point that Mary Charlene had to be committed to the state hospital.
    McGeehan said it was around 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve when Rolland went outside the hospital for a cigarette. She believes her sister left the facility to try to reach her family.
    Family members were disappointed by the initial response to the disappearance, noting police did not get involved until 24 hours later. They also had concerns that Rolland was able to walk away from the hospital without anyone immediately noticing.
    In the ensuing weeks, two search teams from Monroe and Lackawanna County scoured the wooded area near the hospital. Several aerial searches were also done to no avail.
    On Wednesday, McGeehan and her brother, Frank Dennis, travelled to the hospital in hopes there would be a new lead on their sister's whereabouts. They had just exited the building and placed their sister's belongings in a car when a security guard motioned to them to return.
    The siblings entered a room and were greeted by a state trooper.
    ``He said, `You know I don't have good news for you,' '' Dennis recalled. ``I got this tremendous hollow feeling inside.''
    Their sister's body, they learned, had been found that day, hours earlier.
    ``It was so strange. For 12 1/2 weeks we didn't hear anything. The day we go up there is the day the trooper in charge of the case got the report,'' Dennis said.
    ``You always hold out hope, but prepare for the worst.''
    ``We're very grateful God has delivered her to us,'' McGeehan said, her voice cracking with emotion. ``I feel she is truly happy and at rest. She is looking down on all of us and telling us not too cry and weep for her. She is at peace.''
    Terrie Morgan-Besecker, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7179.
   
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