Devastated friends and family say anyone would be hard-pressed to find a person whose heart was bigger than Roger Mirro's.
The 56-year-old Palatine man spent most of his career working to improve the lives of troubled youth, people with disabilities and seniors with memory impairment.
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"He was just a very compassionate and caring person," his mother, Joyce Kolze of Wisconsin, said. "He dedicated much of his life to helping people."
Mirro died Tuesday evening after falling into a trash compactor. Palatine police said Mirro had asked a neighbor for a key to the complex's trash room believing his cellphone fell down the garbage chute. Investigators found a lock removed from the door and a ladder propped along the side of the machine.
Authorities aren't investigating whether Mirro should have been able to access the trash room, police said. Deputy Chief Alan Stoeckel said it appears Mirro's death was a "terrible accident."
Mirro, who grew up in Des Plaines, worked for 10 years until 2004 at Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights. Resident Life Director Brenda Borchers said Mirro was on the activity staff on a special care unit for seniors in need of memory support.
He ran a monthly breakfast for a group of men, took them on outings and often led woodcarving projects.
"Roger was very creative and game for just about anything," Borchers said. "He knew all the staff and families and really advocated for the residents. He went above and beyond and touched their lives."
Mirro previously worked at Lambs Farm in Libertyville and at the Mooseheart Child City and School near Aurora. Mirro was the in-school suspension supervisor at the residential children's facility, which serves youth whose families are unable to care for them.
The Rev. Tom Riemenschneider, Mooseheart's chaplain, said he'll miss their trips together to Wrigley Field. He also fondly remembers attending Mirro's wedding 19 years ago.
"He walked us out afterward, opened his trunk and handed me a plaque with the 1975 Cincinnati Reds baseball cards," said Riemenschneider, who will officiate Mirro's funeral. "It was his wedding and he gave me a gift. He was just a great guy."
Most recently, Mirro worked at Costco in Mount Prospect. Kolze said her son's eyesight had deteriorated over the past two years to the point of legal blindness, and he was grateful his employer was so accommodating. She believes his eyesight may have contributed to the accident.
Mirro is survived by his wife of 19 years, Donna. Funeral arrangements are pending.