Robert Roberts, Jr., 1942-2013; Social worker, artist enjoyed aiding others


Robert Roberts, Jr., a Sylvania man who loved both the arts and assisting others through his social work, died Thursday at Ebeid Hospice. He was 71.

The cause of death is unknown at this time, his daughter, Gwen Golden said, but Mr. Roberts was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in August. 

Mr. Roberts served others throughout his career, which included stops as director of the American Trauma Society and executive director of the Toledo Society for the Handicapped.

"He really cared about other people," Ms. Golden said. "He was very empathetic and he was a very smart person who knew that it wasn't just empathy; you needed to then take action and do something to help people."

Mr. Roberts wasn't afraid to go out on a limb and push forward for things that needed to be improved, said his brother, Thomas Roberts.

"He was always interested in trying to make things better for other people and not accepting the status quo," Thomas Roberts said. "And so a lot of the times, several agencies he worked for, he was instrumental in getting things like wider doorways for people that had to get through with wheelchairs ... and spearheading what we now know is very commonplace, the whole issue of trauma centers and what have you."

Mr. Roberts met his wife, Sara, through his career in social work. They were both working for the same social service organization when they met, and Mrs. Roberts' father also had a grocery store in the neighborhood they frequently worked in. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts wed in 1970.

Before his time as a social worker, Mr. Roberts rose to vice president of Roberts Toledo Rubber Company, a company owned by his father until it was sold to Bendix Corp. in 1968.

In his spare time, Mr. Roberts was an avid graphic designer and photographer, whose photographs were once featured in a one-man show at the Toledo Museum of Art.

"My Dad was a great observer of life and things beautiful, and when we'd go to a city, he would say, 'Don't just look side to side and what's in front of you, you've got to look up, you've got to look down,'" Ms. Golden said. "My Dad would walk into windows and parking meters, he was always off in another place looking at beauty and simple things and chaos and everything.

"He loved to go to junkyards and places that most people would not find beautiful and find things that were aesthetic and that were beautiful," she said.

Mr. Roberts was born on April 28, 1942, in Toledo. Before he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1965 with a degree in English, he attended Asheville School, a boarding school in Asheville, N.C. Enrolling in boarding school was common for the children in the family, his brother said.

"It was something that was - I don't think it was forced on any of us - but it was certainly something that was encouraged in the sense of the importance of higher education, the importance of getting a good education that would then allow you to move on to college and those kinds of things," he said.

Mr. Roberts is survived by his wife, Sara; brother, Thomas; sister, Pamela Skinner; daughter, Gwen Golden, and two grandchildren.

Visitation and services were Saturday.

The family asks that memorials be offered in Mr. Roberts' name to Ebeid Hospice.

Contact Sam Gans at:

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