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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, May 6, 2016

Are We There, Yet?




Jay Edwards

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly

Through the great spaces of the sky;

Be with them traversing the air 

In darkening storms or sunshine fair

- U.S. Air Force Hymn (1st verse)

 

Pretty much on a daily basis over the past few years I have checked the obituary section in our local statewide paper, looking to see if any veterans of the second great world war are among the deceased. It isn’t every day, or even week for that matter that we lose one of these patriots from our region and that generation. There just aren’t that many of them left, with the youngest of them being now in their late 80’s.

I received a text message from my friend Jim Julian late on the afternoon of April 16, telling me, and a few others that his father-in-law, Dave Roberts had passed away at the age of 92. I had been expecting the news after my daughter Alexis, a close friend of Jim and Patti’s daughter Katie, informed me it was probably near.

I first met David Earl Roberts when I was a boy growing up in the city north of the river, where a group of friends that included my parents raised their children in the Lakewood community.

On April 21, I again sat in the Lakewood United Methodist Church, in a pew where I had no doubt squirmed as a boy on occasion, and listened to remembrances of what was a full life. 

Dave was born Dec. 14, 1923, six years before the beginning of the Great Depression, a time aptly named and one that was hard for so many Americans on so many levels. For a large family on a small farm in the township of Olmstead, in Pulaski County, it was no exception.  

Times like those demanded great sacrifices and by the time Dave reached the 11th grade, he left his high school in Jacksonville, to help out at home full time. 

In 1942 he joined the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program and began his lifelong love of flying. After active duty in both WWII and Korea, he remained in the Arkansas Air National Guard for many years and was named Assistant Adjutant General of Arkansas in 1969. He retired from military service on his birthday in 1983, after 41 years of service.

In the course of his life in North Little Rock, Dave was very involved in civic affairs. He served as chairman of the NLR Planning Commission for seven years and was President of many organizations including the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Air National Guard Association, the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association and was President of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. 

In 1972 Dave was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives and served ten terms until 1993. He served as Assistant Speaker Pro-Tem in the 1991 session.

He was a Paul Harris Fellow of the NLR Rotary Club, a 32nd degree Mason and a long-time member of the church where we said those goodbyes. 

He was also, a family man, deeply committed to his wife of 62 years, Marion (Mickey) Knowles Roberts, who he lost in 2012; and to his girls, Debra and Patti.

Debra spoke at her father’s funeral, remembering and sharing, about the love he gave to them all. She described it perfectly, saying, “Daddy was always there.” 

These days, whenever I hear someone speak of their father, like Debra did about Dave, I’m reminded of what Father George Tribou at Catholic High used to say to all the incoming freshmen and their parents, in the assembly at the beginning of their 9th grade year.

Paraphrased, it went something like this: 

“Someday, after you make your own mark in the world, if you are known as a good husband and father, then you will have achieved the greatest success there is.”

Those words seem appropriate again now, when remembering this good man.

Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at jedwards@dailydata.com.