Richard Eugene Roberts, who started his long career in education in Indiana and retired as Sylvania Northview High School principal, died Friday. He was 86.
Mr. Roberts was diagnosed about 10 years ago with Alzheimer’s disease and was receiving care at Parkcliffe Alzheimer’s Community in Toledo, his son Michael Roberts said.
His educational career spanned more than four decades and culminated at Northview, where he became assistant principal in 1984 and was then promoted to principal.
“He was so proud to be part of that system because of the curriculum and the test scores …, the success [of] the school system,” his son said.
Born Dec. 9, 1928, in Manchester, Ind., Mr. Roberts graduated from Huntington High School in 1947 and from the then-named Ball State Teachers College in 1951. A track and football athlete in high school, Mr. Roberts also played football in college, where his son said he was a member of an undefeated team that was later inducted in the university’s Hall of Fame.
He met his wife, Ada Lorean Roberts, while they attended Ball State. She died Jan. 21.
His first job in education was teaching mechanical drafting, shop, and driver’s education and coaching numerous sports teams at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, Ind.
In 1959, he earned a master’s degree in education from Purdue University.
But it was his next job at an Indiana school, Rensselaer Central High School, where he hit his professional stride. He became principal in 1964. At Rensselaer Mr. Roberts blossomed into a respected administrator and helped plan a new high school, his son said.
“He never put himself above anybody else, and he was always there for the students. He hung out with the students, he had great ways of communicating with kids if they were misbehaving,” said son Michael Roberts, who attended Rensselaer along with his brother Kim.
He arrived at Northview after a stint as principal at Evergreen in Metamora, Ohio.
At Northview, he supported student groups and was an avid fan of the school’s hockey team, treasuring an honorary hockey jersey he received.
He told The Blade in a 1994 story about his retirement that supportive parents were paramount to educational success.
“When you have kids who want to come to school and are in school on a regular basis and have parents to support that, there’s no way you can lose,” he said. “It’s great to have that feeling and see the talent that comes out of the students with that philosophy in the community.”
His father, who made a point to be the first person to the school each day and the last to leave, fought to keep extracurriculars, such as band and choir, whenever there was talk of budget cuts, Michael Roberts said.
“He was there for the students and not for himself,” he said.
He and his wife retired near Jackson, Mich., but they returned to Sylvania roughly eight years ago when his health began to decline.
His hobbies included woodworking, golfing, fishing, and gardening. He made wood decoys and mahogany rocking horses for his grandchildren.
Surviving are his sons, Kim and Michael Roberts, daughter, Lorinda Roberts, brother, Bob Roberts, and three grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday at Reeb Funeral Home in Sylvania.
The family suggests tributes to the Alzheimer’s Association, northwest Ohio chapter.
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