Garnett Roberts, 78, a big man who bore a life of hard work with an even bigger heart, died Saturday in St. Charles Mercy Hospital. Mr. Roberts died of respiratory failure after a long bout with black lung disease and asbestosis, family members said.
Born in Panther, W.Va., the son of a preacher, Mr. Roberts fibbed to join the U.S. Navy at age 17 during World War II. There, he served as an airplane mechanic in the Pacific Theater until he was discharged in 1946.
After the war, he moved back to the states to work in the coal mines of Gary, W.Va.
They would go down 700 feet with a pick and shovel. Got paid by the bucket load, said his son, Robin Scott. When he came home, he was black, covered in dust from head to toe.
But when the mess was wiped off Mr. Roberts 250-pound frame, he was always smiling underneath, his daughter, Freda Beltran, said. He always had a grin on his face he was a teddy bear.
Mr. Roberts worked 19 years in the mines before a cave-in broke his back in 1963. In a cast from his neck to his waist, he eventually recovered and went back to school in Charlotte to become a crane operator.
He moved to the Toledo area in the mid-1960s with nothing in his pocket, after that cave-in, his son said. But he found a job as a food purchasing agent at the old Commodore Perry Hotel, then got a job operating a crane for American Ship Building Co.
He just loved that job. He was in his glory, his daughter said. He could go up there and sit all day, have lunch up there.
While on the job, Mr. Roberts picked up asbestosis, which, coupled with the black lung disease he d gotten in the mines, forced him to retire in 1986.
Mr. Roberts spent the rest of his days gardening and fishing, and spending time with his family. He died just six months after his wife of 51 years, Faye.
We thought he d be gone 20 years ago, but he was a tough old goose, his daughter said. He held out for her.
Mr. Roberts was a member of VFW Post 2984 in Northwood; Boilermakers Union Local 85, and Salem Methodist Church.
He is survived by his son, Robin Scott; daughter, Freda Beltran, and five grandchildren.
Visitation will be after 2 p.m. today in the Eggleston Meinert Pavley Funeral Home, Oregon, where services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow. The family suggests tributes to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.