Why is this subject, “Pancakes for Roger,” important in the world?
I know the message goes beyond what happened at that kitchen table. I want people to know it’s the little things in life that make a huge impact. Take the time to enjoy little things, like pancakes, that you take for granted. Someday, you may not be able to. It’s a simple message to hear, but it’s a hard one to internalize, especially in our busy lives.
Susan L Combs Biography
What is your background in this subject?
“Pancakes for Roger: A Mentorship Guide for Slaying Dragons” is a book yes, but it started out as a simple request for pancakes from my father while he was on Hospice at our home in Missouri dying from Agent Orange-related throat cancer.
I had moved back from NYC to Missouri to help care for my father during this time, and he and I fell into a cadence for our morning routine where I would check in on him before going to the gym at 5 am, upon returning, I’d check on him again before going to get showered and ready for the day and then come and help him with his tube feeding breakfast and get him settled for the day.
One morning, I was coming downstairs from showering, and I went to my dad’s hospital bed he wasn’t there, so I went into the kitchen. He was at the table that he had set with his placemat and silverware. I looked at him and asked, “Dad, what are you doing?” he said, “I want pancakes for breakfast.” It broke my heart…it still does. Because the one thing that this man wanted, I just couldn’t give him, considering his restrictions of the feeding tube, oxygen, Hospice, and a DNR.
A few weeks later, my father would take his final breath at 5:30 AM on the dot, the same time he used to wake up every morning when I was growing up. My brother, my mother, and I were all by his side when he crossed over. I will never take for granted the time I was able to spend with my family in caring for the man that shaped so much of who I am today.
A few days later, I returned to New York, and I took one day off of work. My husband said to me, “let’s go have some pancakes for your dad.” We went to our favorite diner in Queens, and that’s where the initiative of “Pancakes for Roger” was born.
My husband took a picture, I posted it on social media, and I relayed the story of my dad’s request for pancakes and told people to “go have some pancakes for Roger, if you’re so inclined, and remember all the great things you have in your life.” Life can change in a blink of an eye, so it’s important to appreciate the little things in life as, at the end of the day, it’s the little things that add up to being the big things. I had no idea the impact that one picture would make on my life and the far reach this simple lesson would have. This is where #PancakesForRoger started.
Over the next few months, I started receiving pictures from people who said they’d had pancakes and thought about my dad. I still get text messages saying people can’t have pancakes without thinking about him. His birthday is February 22nd, so the first after he passed, I decided we could use #PancakesForRoger to help get some recognition for the University of Missouri School of Law Veterans Clinic, which trains law students to help veterans and their families navigate the complex VA claims system and essentially builds a network of ambassadors for Veterans across the US. It has now become an annual tradition for the month of February where for every pancake-loving picture we get on public-facing social media posts with #PancakesForRoger, my company, Combs & Company, LLC, makes a donation to the Veterans Clinic in his honor.
This past February, we had over 700 participants, hit all 50 states, 24 total countries, and all 7 continents!
What are your passions outside of your career?
CrossFit & Veterans, I’m fortunate enough that I get to touch at least one or both every single day. I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I have worked tremendously hard for where I’m at in my career, my success affords me the ability to do some good with what I have been given.
Are there any social causes that you believe in and support?
I’m a very big supporter of the University of Missouri School of Law Veterans Clinic as well as the Travis Manion Foundation. These Veteran’s Organizations pulled on my heartstrings, and I can see the impact they are making in the Veteran’s community and in the lives of others.
What is next for you?
It depends on the day! But I do have the desire to see Pancakes for Roger turns into a larger purpose. I honestly can see starting a non-profit in my future that focuses on education for our Veterans. I know there are a lot of wonderful Veterans-based organizations out there, but one that focuses on different types of education and not just a regular 4-year college speaks to me. I’ve served on a number of the University of Missouri national boards, and education has always been something that I can see as a game-changer for so many. I’m not just talking about 4-year traditional colleges either, I see a big need for trade schools, leadership certifications, and beyond.
Pancakes for Roger
Tell me about your book:
In a world that can feel shaky and uncertain at times, one fact holds true: nobody gets anywhere alone.
I have learned that lesson many times over and held onto the advice that has guided me on my journey—one that’s taking me from a tiny town in Missouri to the hustle of New York City. I’ve
faced immense grief and fostered immense growth, personally and professionally. Through it all, I’ve been able to lean on guidance from mentors in my life.
One of those key mentors was my father, Roger. He wore many hats: as a judge, a veteran and Two-Star Major General, a leader in his community, a loving husband . . . and, as you learn in the book, one hell of a dad. Though he passed away in 2018, his legacy lives on in Pancakes for Roger and beyond, as a portion of the proceeds from this book benefits the University of Missouri School of Law Veterans Clinic in his honor.
Five Ways Society Benefits When Kids Spend More Time with Dad(Opens in a new browser tab)
In Pancakes for Roger—a series of quick, straightforward snapshots delivered with no fluff and a whole lot of heart—I share lessons from my father, Roger, and others so that others can lean on them, too, as they set out to slay their own dragons.
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