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MILLERSBURG -- Nearly every day, words of wisdom, encouragement and friendship came to her through her phone -- a text or a call -- and always on the other end was April. On Monday, Feb. 6, neither came, and Emily Zollars said reality hit her like a ton of bricks.
April Rogers died the day prior in a fire that consumed her Killbuck Township home.
"April was my rock, my best friend; she was everything a true friend would be," according to Zollars, who added, "We shared a lot of great times together. She was always there for me in good times, bad times, sad times and, most importantly, the happy times.
"She'd drop anything to be there to help anyone. She'd put others' needs before herself if needed. She always made me see the positive side of things no matter what. She always made sure you knew just how important you were to her, even if it was just a text to tell you to have a good day," Zollars said. "I knew every day she was my best friend and would be there for me at any time if needed. Her love for life, for her family and friends, was the most wonderful thing ever to see.
"I miss her so much, but I know she walks with me daily, holding my hand, being my guardian angel," according to Zollars. "She truly loved with all her heart and was a beautiful person inside and out. She was the most amazing person ever. I'm blessed that God brought us together so many years ago. She was my rock and sunshine to a lot of people."
They met more than a decade ago while sitting along the sideline at baseball games, cheering on their sons, said Zollars, who also said there was nothing April cherished more than her family -- husband, Volley; children, Jace, Samantha, Savannah and Seth; and an extra, Brock Judson, whom she considered one of her own.
"She loved those kids. They were her world. She was at everything and anything they were doing. She cared about everyone's kids as her own," said Zollars of April, who in recent years was able to renew her relationship with and marry Volley, with whom she purchased her family's home place, where they lived together.
The two women spent three hours on the phone the day before April died. During that discussion, April outlined a plan to restore the old house he grandfather built by hand. It's a conversation Zollars said she'll treasure, and she said Volley will now rebuild the home on his own.
"He's very determined to stay on the property and keep her memory alive there," she said.
Zollars said she hopes the community will remember April for "how much she genuinely cared for people."
"She loved her family and she loved her friends," said Zollars. She added April had a way of seeing the positive in any situation.
And forever, she said, she'll treasure the many crafts April made for and gave to her over the years. Crafting and gardening were true passions for her, Zollars said. "Her flower beds were her pride and joy. There wasn't a plant she didn't know."
To the community, Zollars offers advice she knows would have come from her friend. "Love on your family. Love on your friends."
And, while April was never one to ask anything of others, Zollars said, those who are now left behind could truly benefit from extra thoughts and prayers.
"They're going to need them," she said, adding, "When you go through something like this, your home is your comfort place. They don't have that.
And, in the weeks to come, as the rest of the world falls back into a routine, "that's when they're really going to need it." April also would want those who loved her to embrace life, Zollars said, because, unfortunately, "life's too short."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.