Lighthouse News Line
A Loving Farewell to Bill Roberts
The Cape St. George Light has lost one of its dearest friends.
Bill Roberts, son and grandson of lighthouse keepers at Cape St. George, passed away unexpectedly on November 18 due to complications from a fall.
|Verner and Bill Roberts at the Cape St. George Light.|
Bill was many things to Cape St. George: a supporter when we were first thinking of rebuilding the light; a cheerleader when he and his wife Verner frequently came to check on the progress of the reconstruction; a storyteller who delighted in talking about his childhood days at the lighthouse to a spellbound audience including at times SGLA officers and staff Dennis, Elaine, Stanley, Jim, Skip and Terry, and any visitors who were lucky enough to be around when he visited; a speaker who mesmerized the crowd at the ceremony for the laying of the first brick in the reconstruction; a benefactor who brought us many of the artifacts that are now part of the Roberts Family Collection at the Keeper’s House Museum; an author who wrote about “life at the light,” including rides in a goat cart and chores at the lighthouse, which is the basis for our favorite museum exhibit; and a lifetime member of the St. George Lighthouse Association.
But most of all he was our friend, and we will miss him dearly.
We last saw Bill in October, at the Florida Lighthouse Association meeting in Port St. Joe. At the age of 88, he had driven himself to the meeting from his home in Mary Esther, and was excited to see all his lighthouse friends. Bill spent the night in the area, and was uncharacteristically late arriving for the Sunday morning meeting, causing us much concern. The Cape St. George team with museum designer Jerry Murphy were scheduled to make a presentation that morning, and planned to highlight Bill’s generous contributions to the Keeper’s House Museum. Just as we finished singing his praises, he walked into the room. Like many of us at the meeting, he had been tricked by the proximity to the time zone line and was an hour off. He laughed and proceeded to donate two aprons which his mother had sewn on the Damascus sewing machine now housed in our museum.
When the meeting was over, he was off to see Beverly at Cape San Blas, then on to Cape St. George for a fine visit and a conversation with Carol about the very successful sales of his book in our gift shop, before we sent him on his way so he wouldn’t be driving home after dark.
The memories go on and on. We are so proud of the collection of family artifacts that he donated to the museum – tools used by his father, Walter A. Roberts, Jr. as keeper at Cape St. George, and items from their home life in the keeper’s house at the lighthouse. We are proud that Bill saw his family honored in the little museum, and proud that he could be with us to meet visitors and sign books on opening day in August.
One last story. One of the items that Bill donated was the rocking chair in which his Mother rocked him as a newborn baby when he was afflicted with whooping cough. We recount this story on the exhibit label explaining the significance of the chair. This summer a lady who was visiting the museum asked about the child with the whooping cough: “I hope the little boy is OK,” she said, with great concern. We assured her that at 88 years old, Bill had survived the whooping cough and was doing just fine, and that we were looking forward to his next visit. Bill enjoyed this story, and we so regret that the ending must change.
Bill, thank you for everything. We will miss you very much.
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