Retired El Segundo Detective Roger Kahl, whose long fight with leukemia encouraged at least 1,000 people to sign up to be bone marrow donors, has died. He was 51.
Kahl died at his El Segundo home Monday after a nine-year battle with chronic myelogenous leukemia, acting Police Chief Tim Grimmond said.
A 26-year veteran of the department who retired less than three months ago, Kahl was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 1983. Doctors said his only hope for a cure would be a bone marrow transplant, but at that time such transplants were only done between siblings. Kahl has no brothers or sisters.
Two years ago, however, Kahl registered with the National Bone Marrow Donor program, which in 1987 began keeping a computerized registry of possible non-related donors. El Segundo community groups now stage an annual 5-K race, Roger’s Run, to raise money for the registry.
No donor was found for Kahl, whose blood contained extremely rare components, but at least one woman added to the registry in his name was able to donate marrow to save a life.
Despite the expense, emotional demands and the frustration of his unsuccessful search for a donor for himself, Kahl said in a March interview that he would “do it all again today, in a minute. . . . I think the greatest gift you can give is someone’s life, or a chance to live. You can’t give anything better than that.”
Colleagues on the police force praised Kahl for his compassionate work with juvenile offenders and young victims.
“That’s a frustrating job at times and he always looked to the positive and downplayed the negative,” Grimmond said. “He was a special person. Everybody is going to miss him.”
A native of Wyandotte, Mich., Kahl was in the Marine Corps for four years before he joined the El Segundo Police Department in 1965. He was a graduate of El Camino College and the Delinquency Control Institute of USC.
Kahl is survived by his wife, Donna, of El Segundo; two sons, Bret of Los Angeles and Phillip of El Segundo; a daughter, Shawna, of Manhattan Beach; his mother, Shirley, of Carson, and one grandchild.
Memorial services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Library Park in the 600 block of Main Street in El Segundo. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Leukemia Society of America or the City of Hope.