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COMMISSIONER ROBERTS DIES

Bill Roberts ().
Bill Roberts ().

Curry County Commissioner Bill Roberts died at home Christmas morning of an apparent stroke.

A memorial service has been tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints behind the Brookings Elks Lodge. Check The Pilot website at http://www.currypilot.com for possible time changes.

(The Curry Coastal Pilot sent out a Pilot E-Mail Alert to readers about Roberts' death. To be included on the E-Mail Alert list for future events, please send your name and e-mail address to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it with "E-Mail Alert" in the subject line.)

Roberts, a Catholic, will have a second service in Hanford, Calif., where he will be interred next to his brother.

His wife, Ruth, said the symptoms on Christmas were similar to those from the stroke he suffered during the Thanksgiving holiday.

I believe he had a stroke, she said, though the coroners report wasnt in yet.

She woke up at 6:15 a.m. to discover Roberts was having trouble breathing.

When she couldnt wake him, she called for help. Family members visiting for the holiday dialed 911, she said.

The ambulance was dispatched at 6:27 a.m. and arrived at Roberts Olympia Road home off of Carpenterville Road at 6:41 a.m.

Roberts said the ambulance crew was very helpful but couldnt revive her husband. She said they just live too far out.

A misplaced street sign did not delay the ambulance, because a family member stayed on the phone line and directed it down the right driveway, she said.

Other emergency responders were misled. Ruth said Olympia Road is their driveway. It has no sign.

She said neighbors posted an Olympia Road sign on their driveway instead, confusing the sheriffs deputy and causing a two-hour delay with the funeral home.

She thanked the deputy for staying with her until funeral home personnel arrived.

Ruth said her husband suffered a major heart attack in 1990 and underwent a successful bypass operation.

He was healthy from that time until he had gallbladder surgery about five years later, she said. That surgery resulted in an infection and had to be redone.

It was just one health problem after another since that time, she said.

Two years ago, Roberts claimed he sustained heart valve damage from a prescription diet medicine. His wife said after that he suffered congestive heart failure.

Roberts sued the drug company and settled out of court recently, but his wife said under the terms of the settlement, they couldnt reveal the amount.

Roberts suffered a stroke while in Southern California during the Thanksgiving holiday, which he believed could have been related to the heart valve damage, she said.

Commissioner Lloyd Olds described Roberts recovery as miraculous. Roberts appeared to be his old self at the Dec. 18 commissioners meeting.

The Olds and Roberts families got together at Righettis Sporthaven restaurant on Christmas Eve.

Olds said Roberts was feeling great at the time, and was playing with his grandchildren. Olds was planning a trip to Quartzsite, Ariz., and Roberts said he might join him there.

He said Roberts told him he was feeling better than he had in a long time.

At 7:05 a.m., Olds said he got the call from Roberts wife that he died.

Olds said regardless of what Roberts critics said, he was a dedicated and honest commissioner.

He did the job with no special interests except to help the county. His critics just didnt know Bill, he said.

Ruth agreed. Once people knew Bill, she said, They liked him.

Olds said Roberts was on the radio Friday praising his opponent in the election.

Commissioner-elect Lucie La Bont said she was saddened by the loss in an e-mail message to The Pilot Tuesday after hearing about Roberts death.

Not all of Roberts critics were as generous. His wife said a sympathy card arrived around the time of his first stroke with the results of the election taped into it. It was signed the good ol boys.

She said those people would have to answer to God in their own way. In my heart, I have forgiven everybody, she said.

Roberts didnt take politics personally, she said.

Olds said, He had guts enough to speak out and call it the way it was if he felt people were ripping the county off. He didnt like that.

Lloyd has been a true friend to Bill, Roberts said. She said he sat by his bedside for days when he was in the hospital two years ago.

Roberts said her husband had the education to run the county and put it in better financial shape in his four years in office.

I think the county voters bettered themselves by electing him, she said, Bill and Lloyd were penny-pinchers.

Commissioners office staffer Brenda Starbird also said Roberts was a good business manager, and had a good sense of humor.

I enjoyed working with him a lot, she said.

Roberts wife wondered if he might still be alive if he had won the election. She said it was characteristic of his family to get through serious health problems if there was an important job to do.

He was depressed after losing the election and let himself go for a time, she said. Still, she said, Roberts never remained depressed long, and she thought he would soon throw himself into another project.

The Robertses were married 31 years. They had three children and three granddaughters.

Roberts moved to Curry County in 1987 from the San Francisco Bay area where he served for nine years as a parole officer in San Quentin.

He had also been a deputy sheriff, a city officer and a corrections officer.

He was an investigator in the public defenders office in Curry County from 1993 to 1996. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for sheriff in 1994.

County Counsel Jerry Herbage said Roberts position will not be filled until La Bont is sworn in Jan. 2. He said there are no commissioners meetings scheduled until that time.

Though there is a county procedure for replacing a commissioner, Herbage said it could not be implemented until long after La Bont is scheduled to be sworn in.

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