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Published: Thursday, 10/23/2008

Veteran teacher was booster of Old West End

Janet R. Roberson, 70, a retired Toledo teacher who began a Memorial Day commemoration of peace for students and was dedicated to her Old West End neighborhood, died yesterday in Hospice of Lake Park Comfort Care, Sylvania, from complications of congestive heart failure.

She had multiple sclerosis and lived in assisted living at Lake Park since last October, her son Fritz said. Before that, she lived for 22 years in the Lincoln, an apartment building near the Toledo Museum of Art.

Mrs. Roberson retired in 2002 as a fifth-grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School. While there, she began an annual Memorial Day event called Wings of Peace.

Her students hand-folded paper cranes - and then helped other students at Longfellow, from kindergarten up, to fashion the origami birds - in remembrance of a Japanese girl who died after exposure to radiation in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

The girl folded paper cranes before she died, an expression of her wish to get well.

On the day of the Longfellow School commemoration, students 800 strong marched and sang songs, displayed hundreds of paper cranes, and even released live doves in front of the school. Students also sent paper cranes to peace monuments around the world, including in Hiroshima.

"The kids [at Longfellow] will remember that forever, even if they never had her as a teacher," said Janice Wenck, a retired Longfellow second-grade teacher. "She thought it was important to speak of peace and what it would mean."

Before Longfellow, Mrs. Roberson taught at McKinley, Cherry, Nathan Hale, and Gunckel elementary schools.

She moved to the Lincoln in 1985, attracted to the character of the Old West End, her son said. She was a book collector and "like an old book, there was something really beautiful about that neighborhood."

She also liked the social side of life in the Old West End, he said.

"There's a neat crowd of people down there who have similar beliefs that the neighborhood is a treasure," her son said.

And so she took part in the Old West End Association, was an editor of its newsletter, and held most of the offices in the group, said Nancy Myers, a trustee.

"She really believed strongly in preservation," Mrs. Myers said. "That's the reason she worked so hard for it."

Mrs. Roberson was a former member of the Old West End Historic District Commission, which reviews requests to demolish or alter structures. She also took part in the Women of the Old West End.

The daughter of Thelma and Chuck Koehlein, she was a graduate of Adrian High School and Adrian College.

After marriage, she taught English for a time at DeVilbiss High School. She later received a master's degree from the University of Toledo.

Mrs. Roberson was a seamstress and she liked to knit scarves and sweaters to give to family members and friends, Mrs. Wenck said.

Mrs. Roberson's apartment was about 3,000 square feet, and each Christmas she had four trees, one of which was decorated with origami ornaments she'd made of every shape and color, her son said.

She was formerly married to the late Scott Roberson.

Surviving are her sons, Scott, Tom, and Fritz; sister, Madelyn Kirk, and six grandsons.

The body will be in the Ansberg-West Funeral Home after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Martin de Porres Church, of which she was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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