Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Local News

March 4, 2013

Roberts will celebrate 105th birthday on Wednesday

(Continued)

Knoxville —

While teaching - up to 29 kids of all ages in one room - Roberts also helped the school purchase a kerosene stove. The stove was used to prepare meals for the children, some of whom may not have had anything more to eat than a slice of buttered bread. 

"That was the nicest thing to do for the kids," Roberts said. 

In her first year of teaching, Roberts earned $70 a month. By the time she "retired" from teaching, she was earning $80. 

It was at that time she married Ralph Roberts. The couple began their life together on Sept. 29, 1929. They rented a 160-acre farm around Ralph's hometown of Attica. 

"Farm life is a good life," Roberts said. They enjoyed a two-story house on the farm. This was more than they needed, and they opened their home to five female teachers and two male miners who worked in the area. Roberts loves to cook, and did so for her family, boarders and farmhands. 

Ralph and Helen worked through the Great Depression, with their farm providing for themselves and their two sons. They spent nearly 20 years on the farm near Attica, then moved to a different one near Knoxville when their sons were leaving the nest. 

"One day, I woke up and decided I wasn't going to be a farmer anymore," Roberts said. This was in November 1948. She answered an ad in the Journal-Express (a paper she has taken and read throughout her life) to work as a receptionist at the Mater Clinic in Collins Memorial Hospital in Knoxville. 

This was the happiest day of her life, she said. She still remembers her days with the hospital fondly. 

Roberts kept the books, took payments, helped the patients and did whatever was asked of her. She held every baby born at the hospital and relished the privilege. One day, she was offered the job as administrator.

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