The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Anne Elizabeth Hoover Roberts, of Shamokin Dam, went into the loving arms of her heavenly Lord and Savior at 4:37 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, five days after her Sunbury Community Hospital admission and her courageous battle against renal failure. Anne was transported Sunday, Oct. 27, to the emergency room by ambulance from the family’s 38-year residence at 204 Ninth Ave.
Only 32 days before, friends and family joyously celebrated Anne’s 100th milestone with her on Sept. 28. She spoke briefly of her gratitude to them and to the Lord, for the goodness and love He bestowed upon her through her lifetime. At the conclusion of the “Happy Birthday” stanzas sung to her, she added in song her customary “And many more!”, then blew out the candles on her “Cheers and love to you, Mother” cake.
Anne, named “Annie Elizabeth” at birth (after her paternal grandmother, Annie Elizabeth Price Hoover) was the child of Rufus Rexford Hoover and Catherine Mary Loretta Tobin, born Sept. 26, 1913, in Girardville, at the home of her maternal grandparents, George and Mary Turner Tobin. Annie was christened at Girardville Catholic Church Rectory in infancy, but, because of the opposing religions of her parents (Roman Catholic mother and Baptist father), she could not attend a Sunday school or church service of either; she shed many tears pleading to go to church during those childhood years dressed in her Sunday best as she watched neighbors’ families attend services. This constant family conflict prompted Annie to decide she’d join the church where her future husband held membership. Fortunately, Annie’s mother taught her to pray and played and sang hymns on the piano with little Annie and her year-and-a-half older brother, George, during their brief years together. Catherine taught Annie to play the piano. Her dad, “Rufie,” as Annie nicknamed him, taught her to play the trombone; she played briefly in the Shamokin Marching Band.
Annie (age 6) and brother George survived black diphtheria. Their family doctor called her mother, Catie, a miracle mother and claimed she was intuitively a better doctor than he’d been. His patients died. But there was no miracle worker to help heal Catie’s “change of life” emotional breakdown at age 39 when Annie was 10. It brought about her intermittent absence from thereon. Catie left their home permanently when Annie was 14. (Psychiatrists later would tell Annie that her mother could have been treated with medication and not hospitalized had this happened in the 1950s). Sadly, both grandmothers died within the first three years of Annie’s life, so maternal support was lacking thereafter. Annie quit school at the beginning of her freshman year because family funds had diminished severely during the Depression, and she felt her clothing was inadequate and didn’t like school. She was also the woman of the household by then (1926), cleaning, cooking and sewing for her brother and father until March 1933. Brother George married on the 13th and moved out. Then her father died (age 49) of a massive heart attack in Annie’s arms on the 31st in their Tharptown home. It was during the Depression. He was jobless. They were living on bare essentials and had unpaid property taxes. His heart was overwhelmed with the circumstances. Annie ran across the street to her dear neighbors in shock. They took her in for a period of weeks and those (plus wonderful childhood) friends remained a strong support for Annie (and her for them) until their deaths. Each was motherless or fatherless at an early age. (Annie was considering taking a job as a beautician in Mount Carmel and renting a room there and her father was having difficulty accepting her possible departure. She had no job.) She graduated from Madame Sidonia’s French Academy of Beauty Culture in Scranton the previous December.
Annie’s next life-stage enfolded as she married loving, spiritual, lifelong Christian Thomas Laverne Roberts (Sr.), of Northumberland, May 21, at his Park Methodist Episcopal Church at Front and King streets. Originally, they intended to marry when Anne (her big-girl name with a drop of the “i” in Annie by then) turned 20. But T La Verne came to the rescue. At this time, he was a Daily Item reporter and helped (along with his two siblings) to financially support his widowed mother, Sara Ann Davis Roberts, and helped pay his father’s (Albert Gayton Roberts) funeral expenses. He was separated from T LaVerne’s mother for 15 years prior to his death. Then LaVerne agreed to help pay the funeral costs of Anne’s father. With God’s help, LaVerne carried those burdens. Anne loved La Verne’s moral character. “He had a good heart, did not swear, had an impressive vocabulary, was very polite, plus my father approved of him,” she’d tell us. It was love at first sight for T LaVerne (TL) at a Rolling Green Park dance. Anne’s love for him blossomed and grew over those two years of courtship.
Their first dwelling was an Arch Street apartment in Sunbury, only a block and a half from TL’s work, and the home of their first son, Thomas (Tommy) Laverne Jr., born April 10, 1934. “He’s a pip!” wrote Dad in a letter to Mother when the birth excitement kept him from sleeping that night. “Tell Tommy he shouldn’t talk back to you. In fact tell him I’m sort of mad because he didn’t pay much attention to me when the doctor brought him out tonight. He wasn’t at all polite when he yawned without putting his hand over his mouth.” Mother joined (and was baptized) at St. John’s Methodist Church in Sunbury when Tommy was baptized. She attended Esther Park’s Sunday school class there.
Early the following year, Mother took care of Dad for a month when his doctor ordered “quiet and rest” at home post suffering a heart attack. “It was not easy with an 11-month-old scrambling toddler in the house; but we all got through it with prayers and supportive friends,” Mother reminisced.
She miscarried in 1936. Then came the blessed birth of their second son, Ned Lee, June 8, 1938, the only child born to them with her dark blue eyes. Tragedy hit the household weeks later, on July 27. Fortunately T LaVerne was home for a late lunch when Anne discovered Ned Lee lifeless in the crib. Cause of death was congenital heart disease.
Anne and La Verne overcame Ned’s death with God’s help. He blessed them with a third (darling) baby boy, Richard Hoover, in mid-July 1941. Thereafter, they prayed for a little girl and celebrated daughter Karen Kay’s arrival the morning after Thanksgiving 1944. Then Dr. Phillips ordered, “No more pregnancies, Anne. We want to preserve your good health.” Heartily, she and Dad agreed. By that date, Dad was city editor of The Daily Item. (He was assistant editor from 1938 to mid-1943.)
Mother multiplied her talents. She was a highly creative, resilient, capable, quick multi-tasker. She could paint decorative containers or walls, or wallpaper, put together a tasty meal, bake a cake from scratch, wash and dry the dishes, bathe the children, and keep the home tidy, all in a day’s work. She’d make an array of delicious desserts (often four days a week) and an array of main dishes to please the family’s varied taste buds. She made and sold jewelry and saved the proceeds to buy Christmas gifts. She was unselfish (as was Dad).
Moderation was the rule for food intake. She had us live within our seams and within or below our means. Her very good common sense, coupled with her conscientious discipline, kept our bills paid on time and provided us with ample food, clothing, a car and a nicely furnished, clean, orderly Sunbury home.
Mother was as generous with her neighbors as she was with us. When we moved from Sunbury in 1955 to Lowville, N.Y., to edit and publish the Journal and Republican weekly newspaper, Sunbury neighbors wrote and called Mother. They missed her companionship and those meal or dessert deliveries. Goes both ways; she missed them. She fed elderly couples, widows and some not so elderly with an inner joy that shone on her face. She cut friends’ and neighbors’ hair for nothing; she gave them free permanents; she’d drive them to the hospital or to a doctor’s appointment. She did likewise in Lowville through the years. She was a faithful friend as well as mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, aunt and sister. She talked with endearing terms of her nieces, brother, parents and dear friends and maintained a closeness with them throughout her lifetime. She treasured her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and husband, too.
She made her own clothing and her daughter’s (mine-Karen) until 1955. Mother saw that we had horn and piano lessons. A new piano was purchased in 1951 when I expressed an interest in playing. “That’s it. We’re getting one now!” (Mother had longed for a piano since 1933 but modest income and her choice of more immediate family priorities put it on the back burner until that moment.) Dad’s paycheck was put to good use for a piano. Mother wanted one with a supple, light touch, keyboard and rich intonation. Our “stay-at-home” Mother was discriminatingly selective about all choices she made and projects she completed. She drove brother Richard and me to our weekly private, piano lessons and respective cornet and trombone lessons in Lewisburg (at Bucknell) and Sunbury. Tommy went by trolley car to Selinsgrove for his cornet lessons. She made us practice for a half hour each on horn and piano. She was an assistant Girl Scout and assistant Cub Scout leader, helped at church rummage sales, dinners and Christmas bazaars. She was a school band-mother and chaperoned many band trips and dances. On an autumn 1961 Saturday, when I was a student at a New Jersey boarding school, the headmistress announced at our 7 a.m. breakfast that we’d be going to a West Point football game around noontime. My heart jumped with hope. Richard was a cadet there. I was terribly homesick, so I called home (Lowville) to get Mother and Dad to meet at the game 65 miles north of me and 250 south of them. I didn’t have to convince Mother that it was a good idea. Quickly she readied herself and made it for the start of the game. She drove that 500-mile round trip just so we could share a few precious hours. Dad was bogged down with work so Mother got her next-door neighbor, Angie Meda, to accompany her, and there they were waiting in the bleacher seats, adjacent to ours, when we arrived. We were elated to be with one another.
It gave us such comfort and joy to hear Mother play the piano and sing from the Methodist hymnal after our family’s return from Sunday church and a dinner-outing, or, to hear her sing a “pop charts” tune upon our return home from school. Both her beautiful face and lovely voice gave our home a precious warmth within those moments as did those of looking up at her as she’d slip on her white gown and fix her thick, well-coifed brunette hair to go to an Eastern Star Chapter 266 meeting, of which she was a member in the late 1940s through 1954. In 1967, she became matron of the Lowville, N.Y., Zenith-Copenhagen Chapter of OES. (She would recite passages of her Star Point offices with clarity and deep expression only months prior to her death.) Her NYS district patron told Dad, “I never heard anyone read the passages with such a God-given, deeply expressive manner until I heard Anne.”
Mother was a courageous, determined cheerleader for Dad. She, through the Lord’s leading, insisted Dad look for a weekly newspaper and become his own boss after Dad’s older brother, George, an accountant for Bendix, passed away in June 1954 and left his life insurance policy to Dad. Dad asked, “Are you sure we should put a down payment on a newspaper, Anne? We could own our own home instead.” (She believed he deserved a higher salary for years with his intelligence, capabilities and diligence.) “Buy the newspaper! Laverne. You need this. And I do too.” Wisely they bought an already established one, the Journal and Republican (J&R) in Lowville, N.Y. Dad had two plaques adjacent to his typewriter that he read daily: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me;” and Rotary’s “Four Way Test”: 1.) Is it the truth? 2.) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4.) Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Together those were his guiding principles and hers. The newspaper’s advertising more than doubled. The page content tripled. Its circulation increased. God blessed both parents for their faithfulness. “Wonderful years,” Mother and Dad would reflect. Mother was Dad’s willing “go-for this and that” at the office. She was his bookkeeper for a year, his office cleaning lady at the onset of the paper’s purchase, advertising salesperson intermittently between hires and his fill-in secretary whenever needed.
That period of time wasn’t pain-free for Mother and Dad. Richard became an Army second lieutenant platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division after graduation from West Point and was sent to Vietnam in 1965, then again at the end of 1968. In 1965, he was part of the heated Thet Offensive and was severely wounded. It was on the news that the 101st was part of Thet, so Mother started praying fervently to the Lord up in her bedroom and paced back and forth through the long hallway of our second-floor home for several hours, pleading with the Lord to protect Richard. I joined her. We both cried and prayed together. The Lord answered Mother’s fervent prayers. Even though Richard was temporarily paralyzed and required three months of recuperation, God did heal him. He returned for a second stint as company commander roughly three years later and came back safely after a nerve-racking year for Mother and us all. Dad’s poor health precipitated a premature J&R sale in February 1969. He’d broken his wrist and had to type with one hand. He called and asked me to leave my radio station job and come home to help him; I declined, “Dad, maybe next year. I’m just not ready to come back yet.” He, nor I, had any idea his health issues were so serious. Mother did. (She wanted him to keep the newspaper, hire someone as editor and hoped Tom or I would eventually return.) His malaise was not defined until their return to Pennsylvania (Shamokin Dam) in August 1970. Mother would try to get him to go to the doctor, but he said he had too much to do and wouldn’t take the time. Both parents were dearly missed when, due to Dad’s diminishing vigor, they sold the newspaper in February 1969, then sold the Lowville home in August 1970. They received calls, letters and visits by Lowvillians. They wished Dad still owned the paper. Stories with a more negative, personal content were sought out and published.
Things fell apart for them when Dad developed a high fever in early 1971. The doctor said he had mononucleosis. After repeated doctor visits, Mother insisted he be taken by ambulance to Geisinger. After a series of stabs at diagnosing Dad’s ill health and two send-homes, Mother insisted “he’s not leaving until you find out what is wrong with him. It can’t be merely mono.” So they did keep him and advance the ball. He had Hodgkin’s disease, needed a triple bypass and perhaps had lung cancer (a smoker), she was told within the ensuing weeks. Mother was a faithful, loving spouse and guarded her husband’s welfare with due diligence daily, hourly. She drove 90 consecutive days to Danville while they patched Dad into a “remission” status. Months later, he had the heart operation but was battling Hodgkin’s and spent another 96 days in the hospital until it again went into remission. When he could no longer bear the chemo treatments, he requested they end. (He was 113 pounds.) Mother was his driver, nurse and prayer warrior.
They’d hoped to travel more and enjoy retirement years. (They’d been on a cruise, flew to Hawaii and visited friends in Florida.) She mowed the lawn, shoveled snow off the long driveway and walked two miles a day to release tension. (She maintained the chores for many years after his death.) She handled it all with love and grace and earnest prayer, she looked to satisfy Dad’s appetite. She succeeded. He gained nearly 45 pounds during the next year. He was more important to her than any trip they might take. He loved her all the more for her faithfulness. What supportive, loving lifemates they were. “You’re My Everything” she’d play on the piano. He’d listen from his sick bed as her voice carried the loving message through the hallway to his ears. Wonderful hymns, ( i.e. “How Great Thou Art”), were part of her love-repertoire to Dad. They brought tears of joy down both their cheeks. Both were feeling very vulnerable. (My Long Island trips home helped me record those emotions and interaction and join these spiritually sweet occasions.)
Amid all this, dear son Tom went into a deep depression over his pending divorce. That Thanksgiving and Christmas season of 1973, Mother had Dad in Geisinger and Tom was hospitalized too. Tom (age 39) ended his life in the early morn of March 8, 1974. We were devastated. But there was more. Eleven months later, Dad died (age 67) of toxic poisoning through an accidental cut to his trachea tube while in the hospital being treated for pneumonia. They’d removed his spleen two years earlier, and it weakened his ability to fight infection. Mother climbed out of these dark days leaning on the Lord and with friends’ support. She grieved. He was her one and only true love. Then she traveled more internationally and continentally, continued singing alto in St. John’s Methodist Choir until 1991, joined No. 11532 Senior Action Center, the Over 50 Club at St. Monica’s Catholic Church, Ramblers’Club, the Sunbury Social Club Auxiliary, Susquehanna Valley Garden Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution, Fort Augusta Chapter. She was a charter member of Messiah Shrine 44 here in central Pennsylvania. She was a dedicated Republican (and was a member of the Lowville, N.Y., Women’s Republican Club, while there).
Mother was a loving, giving grandmother as well. She doted on the first two grandchildren, when they lived in Lowville and Tom worked for his father. She spent hours singing to them, talking with them, taking them to visit friends. Alone through sleet and snow, 300 miles south she drove to be there for the birth of Tom III at Sunbury Hospital. On her return trip home, outside Utica, N.Y., her heavy Chrysler New Yorker slid on a treacherous strip of icy highway with snow blizzard conditions and then jumped the four-lane highway mid-barrier and flew to an upright landing on the other side of the highway heading south. At the onset, she said, “Lord, here goes the car and me with it.” She was addressing Him and thought her life here would end as she knew it as did a passing trucker, who considered it “a miracle” that she survived. It was; God’s, we believed. So onward went her life cycle as Mother took the first and second born grandchildren to the playground and went down the sliding board with them in the early 1970s. Most of all she prayed for and with them. They remained in her heart until the end of her life as did her neighbors. She played her last game of Parcheesi three weeks prior to her death and won square and fair. (It was a game she taught and played with her children and grandchildren years earlier.) She would not participate thereafter when our dear friend, Marilyn Roberts, asked her to play. Nor could I convince her. It became almost unbearable for her to keep her eyes open. (She lost her desire to play Solitaire and do word puzzles by age 98 because of it.) She still maintained her thick, beautiful, white head of hair until the end. It had a natural, soft curl and was one of her wonderful gifts from her mother, Catie, with her 100 percent Irish ancestry she’d say. Catie was white-haired at 32 and Anne was at 42. Her dad, Rufie, was of Welsh/German ancestry. She inherited his good looks and frame.
Those remaining are Mother’s son, Richard Hoover Roberts, and wife, Constance, of Matthews, N.C.; daughter, Karen Kay Roberts, at home; grandchildren, Valerie Jo Roberts, of Lewisburg, Sonya Kay Hepner, husband, Rodney, and great-grandchild, Jewels Elizabeth, of Lewisburg, Thomas La Verne Roberts III, wife Cheryl Ann, and great-grandchildren, Heather Lilley, Seth Thomas and Benjamin David, of Newport Beach, Calif.; Bradford Lee Roberts, wife Shaily and great-grandchildren, Dhilan and Kaiden, of McLean, Va., Wendy Leigh Roberts, husband David Koeck and great-grandson, Alexander Joseph, of York, S.C., and Richard Craig Roberts, of Puyallup, Wash.; nieces, Ruth Hoover Halle and husband Wm, of Rocky River, Ohio; Joan Hoover Jollife and husband, David, of West End, N.C.; Georgia Hoover Cook and husband, Richard, of Spotsylvania, Va.; Constance Canova Smith and husband Donald, of Bethlehem; and Barbara Canova Berghold and husband, Robert, of Springfield, Va.; plus wonderful grandnieces and nephews.
Her brother, George Hackett Hoover, lived at home until age 95 and his passing in 2007. Both had great genes. Mother loved him and all the above. She was highly grateful for any return faithfulness, affection and communication. Clearly her loving Sheltie/Pomeranian grand-dog grieves Mother’s departure along with the rest of us.
Mother drove a thousand miles and more to visit faithful friends and relatives and preferred those trips more than going on tours and cruises. She made her last best trip early Thursday morning to visit her best friend, Jesus, and her heavenly Father. She was greeted lovingly with open, comforting words and arms.
This is our last, loving tribute to Mother (and Dad). We know their faithfulness has them in God’s eternal resting place, and we rest in the hope and faith that some day we’ll join these dear servants. So we’ll rejoice in song and scripture at Annie’s final church service in celebration of her life at 2 p.m. Saturday in St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Old Trail Road, Shamokin Dam, with guest Presbyterian Pastor Elizabeth Affsprung officiating. Visitation with the family precedes it from 1 to 2 p.m.
Interment will follow in Pomfret Manor Cemetery, Sunbury.
The Jerre Wirt Blank Funeral Home will facilitate burial arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in her memory be made to St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church or the Mostly Mutts No Kill Shelter.