Charles Brockway Roberts

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Charles Brockway Roberts, 94, of Midland, died peacefully on Saturday morning, Dec. 1, 2012, at his home at Bickford Cottage of Midland. Dr. Roberts was born in Kansas City, Mo., on July 31, 1918, the only son of Francis Newell Roberts and Mathilde Eichhorn Roberts. After living in Oak Park, Ill., for two years, the family moved to homestead property near Coronation, Alberta, Canada. After attending first grade in Batavia, Ill., where his mother taught school, he attended Junction Valley School near Talbot, Alberta, Canada. The school was a one-room country school with grades one to eight. With the first money he earned as janitor of the school in grades seven and eight, he bought a Hohner accordion in 1932, which he played for many years. After passing the Alberta Provincial examinations for grades 9 and 10, he attended Mentor Township High School in Mentor, Ohio, graduating in 1936. Returning to Canada, he attended the University of Alberta, graduating in 1940 with a Bachelor of Science in Arts degree. Returning to the United States in June 1940, he was employed by the U.S. Civil Service as an explosives inspector and chemist at the Kankakee Ordnance Works near Joliet, Ill. In November 1942, he transferred to the Pennsylvania Ordnance Works in Williamsport where he worked for six months. From 1943 to 1944, he was employed in war-related research at Ethyl Corporation. From June 1944 to June 1946, he served as a radio and radar technician in the U.S. Navy.

The love of his life was his wife, Lowanda Annette Livingston, whom he married in Imboden, Ark., on April 21, 1946 after being discharged from the Navy. He returned briefly to Ethyl Corporation before moving to Arkansas where he spent a year repairing radios and building public address systems. In 1947, they purchased a home in Black Rock, Ark. where he taught the upper six grades of English at Black Rock High School and was also the librarian. He attended summer school at Arkansas State University, taking courses in education. He attended the University of Arkansas from 1949 to 1950 and received his master's degree in education administration. Returning to Black Rock High School, he served as principal and introduced chemistry and French into the high school curriculum. Also in 1950, he received his First Class Radio Engineering license and worked part-time as a transmitter engineer at radio station KNEA in Jonesboro, Ark..

In 1953, he returned to his roots in chemistry, and he and Lowanda moved their family to Champaign, Ill. Under the direction of Dr. Howard Malmstadt, and with support from Lowanda, he obtained his Ph.D in Analytical Chemistry from University of Illinois in 1956.

Dr. Roberts started working for The Dow Chemical Co. in 1956 in the West Analytical Laboratory where he pioneered new analytical procedures and was among the first to bring analytical methods of analysis to production plants. While working in the analytical department, he developed electrical and gas chromatography methods which facilitated the shipment of many Dow products. Both of these methods led to patents as well as the success of U.S. government contracts. In the early 1960s, he was part of the adult education program, teaching elementary and advanced electronics.

In 1963, he became a research chemist working on the U.S. Government-sponsored Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) program. He also worked in the Chemicals Department as a senior research chemist and later the Electro and Mechanical Research Laboratory. In 1977, he became the manager of the Inorganic Chemicals Quality Control Laboratory, retiring in January 1982. While at Dow, he was the author or co-author of over 15 Dow patents. He enjoyed working in Research where new things were discovered. After retirement, he worked part-time at Midland Molecular Institute and volunteered as a teacher's assistant in electronics at Dow High School.

He was a 62-year member of the American Chemical Society and treasurer of the local section in its early years. He was a member of the Illinois Alumni Association and belonged to the American Legion Post #165. He was a 50-year member of the Memorial Presbyterian Church and served as assistant scoutmaster, Sunday school teacher, and as a deacon and trustee. He loved music, playing the piano and accordion, the latter on stage in Florida and many times as a volunteer in nursing homes. In 2003, he proudly recorded and produced a CD of his accordion music, dedicating it to his family and friends. He and Lowanda belonged to the Shasta Travel Club; they loved to travel and together put over 200,000 miles on two motor homes, visiting nearly every state in the U.S. and all the provinces of Canada. They had many square dance friends and were members of the Grand Squares in Midland.

He loved the game of horseshoes and played with Shasta friends and in many tournaments. He enjoyed playing cards, especially pinochle with special friends. He was an avid reader and gardener and always took pride in the beauty of his flowers. He was honored in 2007 to participate in the Dow Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., a trip he never forgot.

Charles is survived by his son, Daniel R. Roberts of Midland; daughter, Carol (John) Hall of Grand Blanc; and special daughter-in-law, Marilyn Roberts, of Gainesville, Fla. He was preceded in death by his wife, Lowanda, in July of 2012; and their oldest son, Raymon, in 2008. He is also survived by their adored grandchildren, Michael Patrick Hall of Belleville, and Jeffrey R. Hall of Knoxville, Tenn.; also three stepgrandchildren, Steven, David, and Michael (Jennifer) Kuck, all of Florida; and two stepgreat-grandchildren, Ashlynn and Lacey. The family wishes to express their sincere thanks to the caregivers at MidMichigan Home Care Hospice and those at Bickford Cottage of Midland.

Funeral services will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, at the Memorial Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m. The Rev. Wallace H. Mayton III will officiate, with graveside burial following at Midland Cemetery. Family will receive friends at the church from 10-11 a.m. on Wednesday prior to the service.

Those planning an expression of sympathy are asked to consider a donation in Charles' name to the food pantry at Memorial Presbyterian Church. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to the care of the Ware-Smith-Woolever Funeral Directors.


Published in Midland Daily News from Dec. 2 to Dec. 3, 2012
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