The communities of Midland, Mich., and La Jolla, Calif. have suffered a great loss with the passing on Sept.13, 2011 of Roberta R. Allen, a bright and generous spirit known to her friends as "Bobbe." She leaves a legacy of dedicated service to the arts, education, and the field of nutrition, doing so with her own blend of inspired determination and optimism. She will be missed as a loving mother, friend, and benefactor of so very many.
Roberta Ritter was born in 1915 in Plainfield, N.J., and graduated in 1936 from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa. In 1940 she married August "Augie" H. Baum and they were blessed in 1943 with a son, Dale. The family moved to Midland in the early 1950s. Augie Baum met a tragic early death in 1954. After marrying William ("Bill") W. Allen in 1958, Roberta managed an enlarged household with two stepchildren, Gail and Jim Allen, and still found the energy for devoted hospital volunteer work with the "Yellow Ladies" and starting an organization called Triskelions, consisting of women from Bay City, Saginaw, and Midland, to raise money for a new college which later became Saginaw Valley State University. Triskelions Scholarships assisted hundreds of SVSU students and today still provide financial help on the basis on merit and achievement. Bobbe Allen was recently honored by the Midland Center for the Arts and the Midland County Historical Society in the VOICES exhibit as an extraordinary woman who made a difference in the lives of others through her volunteer work in the Midland community.
In 1978 Bobbe and her husband purchased a house in La Jolla and for over 20 years commuted between Michigan and California. After the death of her husband in 1987, she threw herself into working for the Social Services League of La Jolla. Enjoying using her organizational skills, she set out to pay off the mortgages on the League House and Darlington House. She also was a member of the La Jolla Country Club and a supporting member of St. Germaine Children's Charity.
Bobbe Allen came to her support of the arts honestly, performing as a leading actress in the early productions of the Midland Theater Guild, acting as treasurer of the organization, and serving on the original board of the fledgling Midland Center for the Arts. She established an early showing of fine art in the Midland Community Center, served throughout the years as chairperson of the Midland Arts Council, and helped to build MATRIX:MIDLAND into a regional showcase.
Saginaw Valley State University, Cedar Crest College, and Northwood University honored her with honorary degrees for her endowments, scholarships, nutritional grants, and trustee work. Over 185 young girls have graduated from her alma mater, Cedar Crest, as beneficiaries of endowments from Bobbe and Bill Allen, as have countless graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, Texas A&M University, and Northwood University. She has received a Distinguished Woman award from Northwood, as well as the Chancellor's Award from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. In her role as chair of the Allen Foundation Inc., she negotiated the establishment of endowed chairs in nutrition in the name of William W. Allen at Texas A&M University and Cedar Crest College. The Mid-Michigan Medical Center honored her for her contributions in the field of nutrition.
Bobbe Allen will be remembered as someone possessed with the desire and ability to transform any setting, be it her home, an institution of healing or a college campus, into something a little more beautiful, a little more successful, and a lot more hopeful than it otherwise would have been.
She is survived by her children, Dale Baum of College Station, Texas; William James Allen of La Jolla, Calif,; and Gail Elsa Lanphear of Cadillac. She is also survived by grandchildren, Dalhia S. Schuette, Alexio R. Baum, Laurie Bouwman, and William Bouwman.
Family members request that those considering a contribution in memory of Roberta R. Allen make a memorial donation to the San Diego Hospice Foundation, 4311 Third Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103, or online at www.sdhospice.org.