A cheerleader, a friend, a true advocate.

Those are just some of the words used to describe Roberta John, retired director of special services for the Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools.

Roberta R., 64, and her husband, Rogell E. John II, 71, were found shot to death in their Lake Township home in Stark County on June 12. Rogell John was known as Gene John and was the former circulation director at The Independent, a sister publication of The Canton Repository and GateHouse Ohio, in Massillon.

A longtime employee and family friend the couple trusted enough to house-sit while they were on vacation is accused of killing them.

The deaths of Mr. and Mrs. John came less than 24 hours after George C. Brinkman Jr., 45, allegedly killed three women in a North Royalton home, according to North Royalton police. The bodies of Suzanne Taylor, 45, and her daughters, Taylor Pifer, 21, a student at Kent State University, and Kylie Pifer, 18, were found June 11.

Brinkman was arrested June 13, accused of killing the five people, following a standoff at a home in Brunswick that began the night before.

A candlelight vigil was held at Stow-Munroe Falls High School the night of June 14 for Mrs. John, who was known to friends as Bobbi.

Mrs. John retired in September 2008 after 19 years with the district and 35 years working in the Ohio school system.

"She has been a champion of special needs children throughout her career," said then-Superintendent Dr. Russ Jones when the Board of Education approved her retirement in March 2008. "She's one of those people that you will find a replacement for, but you'll never really replace her."

Mrs. John had been a special education instructor before becoming an administrator with the Stow-Munroe Falls School District.

"Bobbi was the special education director here at SMFCSD prior to my employment," shared Dr. Marty Saternow, who filled the director's position after Mrs. John's retirement.. "I was fortunate to have met and worked with her when I was at Crestwood Local Schools for nine years. We attended the same special education director workshops and trainings for the region. We became more than special education colleagues; we became friends."

Saternow said she has "always admired and appreciated her passion and commitment to working with families of our students with special abilities. She fought as their advocate and this was obvious more and more when I stepped into her shoes . . . She has positively touched the lives of more than just the families and students of SMFCSD. We (staff) are so much better for having met her."

"I am completely heartbroken about Bobbi and Gene," said Jennifer Huffman, former SMFCS Community Relations Coordinator. "Bobbi was not only a personal friend, but a dear co-worker when I worked at SMF Schools. She was so knowledgeable about special education law and procedures, I knew I could count on her for accurate information and deep subject knowledge. Bobbi was a true advocate for children with special needs and their parents. She was a cheerleader and a friend and loved celebrating student accomplishments with the families she served. The manner of her death is such a shock to everyone who knew her and loved her. My heart goes out to her two sons, Todd and Brant, and her three grandchildren whom she loved to the moon and back."

A prayer vigil for the couple was scheduled for June 15 at the Mount Tabor United Methodist Church in East Canton

No information was available at press time on funeral services for Mr. and Mrs. John.

Email: mmckenna@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9430