Obituary of John Warren Roberts
John Warren Roberts slipped away from this earth peacefully on Saturday, July 15, 2023 with his wife of 50 years, Sally Roberts, and his only daughter, April, by his side. While he spent more time than he wanted navigating melanoma the last four years, his life story is better characterized by his generosity, sense of humor. welcoming spirit, taste for adventure and his lifelong love of people and animals.
John was born at home in Elizabeth City, North Carolina to John and Edith Roberts in 1944. The second of three sons and a younger sister, John’s connection to his siblings grew from their childhood games & mischief to a deep and abiding love for them and their families over the years. Time and distance were overcome with regular phone calls and FaceTime chats, and he loved them well over the years.
John joined the Air Force following his high school graduation and spent four years stationed in Paris. He played Air Force football and served in air rescue support. It was there that he first kindled his desire to see more of the world around him. It would be years later, after finishing college, starting a family and completing his masters degree, before he would travel far and wide once again. He and Sally traveled in retirement and were always eager to share their stories and plan for the next adventure on the horizon.
John and Sally married in 1973 in Norfolk, Virginia when they served as colleagues at the Chesapeake Juvenile Detention Center. They found a shared penchant for card games, ping pong and encouraging kids whose lives seemed to exist on the outside. John was drawn to the kids on the fringes, a friend to the ones who were often alone. God often brought people across John’s path who needed just his brand of gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) ribbing & honest guidance, devoid of judgment. It has often been said that no could tease you and love you at the very same time the way he did. Somehow his attention made you feel included and valued for who you were. He and Sally taught singles in Sunday School at Great Bridge Baptist Church, he chaperoned ski trips and late-night basketball games; he mentored corrections officers during his tenure as Director of the Newport News City Farm, and was beloved by the host of neighbors he came to know well after moving to South Carolina in 2017. John treated people young and old with dignity, respect, and genuine care. He loved them all.
Second only to people was his love for his animals. The dogs of Milford Park can testify, he never met an animal he didn’t have a soft spot for, or a treat hidden somewhere to share. Over all the years, none perhaps quite compared to John and Sally’s first dog, Cricket: champion frisbee catcher, and tolerant protector of April who was too young to appreciate her quite as well as she should have. There was Patch, Mr. B the rabbit, Muggs and her puppies, and a host of cats over the years.
The house was always filled with pets; none were turned away when in need of a home. There were horses who held a piece of John’s heart as well, one of them a rescue who arrived a fearful, skittish thing but came to trust John completely as a result of his consistent, gentle encouragement. John never seemed to tire of being in the barn where he spared no effort caring for his three equine friends. The day a move to Newport News forced John to retire all three horses together to the wonderful team at Triple R Ranch, was a hard one. He kept up with them as they aged and mourned them when they each passed over the years. They were loved like his children.
John was an avid sports fan. He was a regular in the Hampton Roads annual Charity Bowl (defensive MVP 1984!) and the church softball team for years, and he enjoyed golf with his close friends well into his later years. He coached soccer and never missed his daughter’s high school games. Later in life, he served as a seasoned referee for countless soccer matches across the Tidewater area, sought for his consistency and love for the game.
Nothing sparked quite so much joy in his life as travel. From family camping weekends and road trip adventures across the American West, to far flung excursions in China, Turkey, Colombia, the Middle East and countless visits to Europe, there were precious few places he wasn’t eager to explore. He loved Premier League soccer, river cruises and sharing long meals with his touring companions. He would tell you his travel stories over and over again, delighting in reminiscing every single time. His trips were more than just vacations though; John adored taking in the world around him. He loved the culture and the food and most of all the people he met along the way. He never encountered a stranger and often returned home with new friends he stayed in contact with for years to come. He was always eager for the next destination and quick with an invitation for any and all to join him.
He was a steady and loving husband & father, and he taught his daughter the value of tenacity and integrity. He never shied away from honest conversation, and he didn’t mince words. His path was not always easy growing up, but he worked hard to set a different trajectory for the people he loved. His physical strength and health may have waned in his last year, but his faith in God and the love for those he called family and friends grew impossibly rich and never burned more fiercely.
John is survived by his loving wife, Sally and his daughter, April (Patrick Donnelly), his two grandchildren (Pace Emrys; Ainsley Reade); his brothers, Donnie (Dorothy) and Jerry (Cheryl) and beloved sister, Alice; his nieces, (Becky Winslow; Carson Roberts) and nephews, (Jeff Roberts; Brett Roberts), a darling host of grand-nieces and nephews, and his feisty little yellow cat Polly.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 22, 2023 at 12:00 PM at Gateway Baptist Church, 1651 Dutch Fork Rd., Irmo, SC 29063. A livestream is accessible at https://gatewaybc.com/live-streaming/
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Jordan via a check to Pastor Nour. Please mail donations to Gateway Baptist Church, 1651 Dutch Fork Rd., Irmo, SC 29063.
South Carolina Cremation Society is assisting the family. Family and friends may sign the online guest book by clicking on the “Tribute Wall” tab above.
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