ROBERTS, Lee M.
City Manager of the city of Napa from 1953-1971, died on Monday April 29, 2013 at the age of 94 at his home in Sacramento.
He lived life fully and on his own terms right to the end. At his request, there will be no funeral service. Cremation services were provided by Neptune Society of Northern California. He is survived by his former wife Dora Roberts, daughters Debra Price and Shelli Lyndell, son Kevin Roberts and grandson Justin Stimatze. He was predeceased by late-life companions Miriam Burcham and Jean Scamp.
Lee was born in Oakland on February 11, 1919. He was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley and had nearly completed his degree when his academic career was, as for so many of his generation, interrupted by the outbreak of WWII. He served in the Army and saw action in the Pacific and in the campaign for Guadalcanal, followed by time as a radar operator based on the island of Tonga.
By his own word, he was something of a rabble rouser during his time at UC Berkeley, where he was at first contemplating a career in politics. He was manager of the debate club, for a while dated the film critic to be Pauline Kael, and was well acquainted enough with future counter-culture figure Tim Leary to ask him to be his best man when he married Dora in December 1947. Rather than the law or electoral politics, he eventually found his career of choice in city administration. Following graduation from UC, he briefly attended UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco and through internships arranged by the Coro Foundation was introduced to prospective managerial careers, including that of city manager. He began his career as assistant city manager in Richmond and in Yuba City, taking on the position of city manager in Napa in 1953 at the age of 34. Never shy of tough decisions or being controversial, he was enormously proud of having been part of decisions that shaped the city until his decision to retire from the fray two and a half decades later.
A skilled raconteur, he had many favorite and oft-told stories from his life experiences. He was an avid fan of jazz music, a good California wine, and had an abiding interest in the life of Captain Cook. He loved puns. In retirement, he returned to his boyhood enthusiasm for stamp collecting, and combined several or all of these interests in his extensive travels.
He lived life well for far longer than he claimed to have ever expected. He will be missed.
Published in The Sacramento Bee on May 11, 2013