FRIENDS, FAMILY MOURN ROBERTS

December 29, 2000 11:00 pm

Family and friends of Curry County Commissioner Bill Roberts portrayed him at his memorial service Friday as a man who cared deeply about his family and the community.

The sanctuary of the Brookings Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was filled with those who loved Roberts and worked with him.

Fellow Commissioner Lloyd Olds moved most of those in attendance to tears when he said Roberts had offered his life in exchange for that of one of Olds grandchildren.

Olds said his grandson, who was thought to have a severe nervous disorder and went to Medford for tests about a month ago, was always a favorite with Roberts. Roberts had prayed and told God his health was already gone, and that he would gladly go in the boys place.

He was serious, said Olds. The tests on his grandson came out fine.

Olds explained the Congressional Medal of Honor is given to those who freely give their lives for others.

In my heart, he said, Bill earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Olds said he had lost many friends, and most of their names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., but he said Roberts name is on a special wall with him.

Olds also had a humorous possible explanation for Roberts death.

At the last commissioners meeting, Olds took off his coat and tie and swore he would never put them on again. However, Roberts said at the time that hed figure out something to get Olds back in a coat and tie within a couple of weeks.

Sure enough, Olds said, he had to put them on to speak at the memorial.

Like Olds, Roberts tried to enlist as a Navy flier during the Vietnam War, but was turned down because his eyesight was not sharp enough.

Roberts instead used his ham radio to link servicemen with their families back in the states.

Olds, who did become a Navy pilot, said he had many conversations with his wife and family thanks to the kindness of ham radio operators.

He felt more emotional speaking at Roberts memorial than when his own father died.

I looked on Bill as another brother, he said.

It didnt start out that way. Olds said when he ran against Roberts friend Ken Barton for justice of the peace, he found himself labeled a good ol boy.

He wasnt sure what to make of Roberts when they ran for county commissioner seats in 1996, but got to know him.

Shortly after being elected, which shocked both of them, they traveled to an Association of Oregon Counties meeting together, and a mutual admiration bloomed.

He was one of the most dedicated people I ever met in my life, said Olds, He lived, ate and breathed Curry County and its people.

He described Roberts as happy and good natured, but said, He had no tolerance for people who used county government for their own ends. He spoke what he thought, though he didnt make friends doing it.

By the time they ran for reelection this year, Olds suggested they put their campaign signs together. We both stand for helping the people of Curry County, Olds told him.

Olds also said Roberts loved law enforcement. He stood for honest law enforcement, but had no use for people who overstepped their authority.

Roberts office staff followed Olds comments, speaking about how much they enjoyed working with him.

Brenda Starbird said Roberts loved to shop at Costco and always brought back candy for the office, especially M&Ms.

He would ask her if she had them alphabetized yet. She would reply by saying she was having trouble with the ones that were upside down.

Sheree Cook also portrayed Roberts as a jokester with a good sense of humor.

Commissioner Cheryl Thorp said though they ran for the same seat the first time, they ended up as colleagues and friends.

She lives with multiple sclerosis and Roberts was always concerned about finding a cure, keeping her up to date on any breakthroughs.

He was very caring, she said.

Roberts sister-in-law, Alice Roberts, gave the eulogy and confirmed that he and his brother had always played practical jokes.

He once sent his brother $100 in loose pennies for Christmas. His brother then sent him 50 pounds of loose pistachio nuts. Roberts then sent 25 pounds of those back the next Christmas.

Alice said Roberts had worked as a deputy sheriff in Contra Costa County, where he also owned a law-enforcement equipment shop. He later sold and installed home alarms.

He was willing to do anything and everything he could for his children, she said. He moved to Brookings to give them a new start, she added.

He was a family person in the truest sense of the word.

Roberts son-in-law said he would always call to make sure his grandchildren were in the safest car seats and that some untested product wasnt being used on them. He called Roberts the father he never had.

Donations can be made in Roberts name to Curry County Home Health/Hospice.