Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Richard Gordon Roberts, BHS 1929

Richard Gordon Roberts, BHS 1929
1911 – 2008

Richard Gordon Roberts, 96, passed away peacefully on July 10, 2008, at his Hollywood Beach home. He was born in Los Angeles on July 22, 1911, to Richard Noah Roberts of Missouri and to Charlotte Barthelemy of Illinois. He fist attended Main Street School and graduated from the eighth grade at 97th Street School after surviving the Spanish Flu of 1918. He began high school at Manual Arts High, a new and progressive public school with its own print shop and bindery. Gordon recalled how one beloved teacher, " Daddy " Maynard, continued to teach into his eighties. Gordon transferred to Fremont High after his father’s death in 1926, and then spent his senior year at Burbank High where he took the lead in Moliere’s " Le Medecin Malgre Lui, " graduating in 1929.
In his early childhood he explored Los Angeles from atop Mount Wilson down into abandoned wells. Gordon knew L.A., when horses still pulled the iceman’s wagons. He remembered how his dad still said, "whoa" whenever he drove his Republic truck into the driveway, sitting on his father’s shoulders to get a good view of the crowd when the paperboy announced, "Extra, Extra, Armistice" or seeing famous dignitaries such as George V. Clemenceau, Mac Arthur and Pershing waving to the throngs of people gathered in what is today called Pershing Square. His 56th Street neighbors included hardworking Swedish, Irish, German Jewish, Mexican, and Austrian immigrants, but also, a Civil War nurse, a Southern Belle who taught Sunday school, and Mrs. Stevens who had a beautiful overgrown tropical garden.
When then dream of college evaporated after graduation, he turned to manual labor hauling soda ash at Holly Products, soldering at Hamilton Medical Supplies, working at the movie studios where he espied stars such as Hedy Lamar and Vivian Leigh or caddying at the Wilshire Country Club where he encountered other hungry young men who carried clubs for wealthy men and women that included Howard Hughes and the Ralph’s grocery brothers. His ambition was now to remember everyone’s story and every detail. The memories became his lucre and war chest. Remembering was for him the honored responsibility of the living and pleasurable pastime. His other great release from the grim years of the depression was sailing to Catalina on his friend Reggie’s boat where he developed his great love of the sea.
In 1940 Gordon joined the L.A. Fire Dept., but his life was made complete on August 1, 1942, when he married Carmel Bonnaud in Hollywood. She was the most enchanting woman he had ever met. He made her a promise to be faithful and devoted to her for his entire life. He kept his promise.
Early in 1943 he was drafted into the army and sent to Fort Devon, Mass., and Carrabelle, Fla., for training where Carmel joined him. In 1944 he shipped out to serve in the Pacific with the Amphibious Boat and Shore Regiment, 4th Brigade in New Guinea, then along the Cagayan River on Mindanao to Luzon – reaching Manila as it lay wasted and burning after. His unit arrived in Osaka, Japan in 1945, and was finally shipped stateside on Christmas Day, 1945.
After the war Gordon was stationed on the Fire Boats of San Pedro, promoted to Captain in 1950, then, in 1953 he moved to the San Fernando Valley with Carmel and his two daughters. As the family prospered, vacations became longer and Gordon shared his love of camping, the trees and American history with his family at spectacular places like Yosemite, Flathead Lake and Acoma. On a trip to the East Coast, Gordon provided an hour-long spontaneous lecture on warfare on a hilltop overlooking Gettysburg.
After his retirement in 1970 he realized his dream of touring Europe with his family for six months. From snow-laden forests of Austria to the sun-drenched gardens of the Alhambra in Spain, Gordon reveled in the sights and treasures of Europe. He enjoyed a quiet retirement with family and friends, helping to form and support the Channel Islands Beach Community, traveling to Hawaii and Japan, reading the Bible, and passing out political billfolds at election time. He was a familiar sight beneath his straw hat on Hollywood Beach talking to all passerby. After Carmen passed in 2004 he kissed her photograph every morning then would look out to sea. One of his last prayers was "Dear Lord, please take care of the United States, " and his last words were "Let’s go, I love being off-shore with you. "
He is survived by his daughters, Christine McKinnon of Port Hueneme, Laura Roberts of Hollywood Beach, and his grandson, Richard McKinnon of Port Hueneme. The family would like to extend its special thanks to Personal Parent caregivers Lidia Felix and Al Gallegos for their help in Gordon’s last weeks.Funeral services were held at Funeraria del Angel Mortuary on July 19, 2008, Rev. Dr. Daniel Green delivered the Pastor’s message. Soloist Mr. George Meade led the gathering of family and friends singing "The Battle Hymn" accompanied by Mr. Paul Hinkle. Burial services followed immediately at Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard.

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