John Sewell Roberts passed away suddenly on July 20, 2013 leaving his family and friends unable and unwilling to believe it.
How do you write a eulogy for someone who is still larger than life? Whose face will no longer be seen at Robert's Cove Basin, but whose presence will always be there? One need only say the family name "Roberts" and immediately there comes to mind the best of the American spirit: community service, commitment, ingenuity, humor and hard work. John Roberts included all of these qualities and then some.
He started early. He began selling acorns by the roadside when he was 4. Not too many years later he was already beginning to fix all things broken and make creative use of what others considered broken and tossed out. It was his love and genius to be creative and to be a fixer of things. It continued throughout John's life. Even his email name was "Tinkerman." Among other things he was taught from his youth were volunteerism and community service. While it would normally be appropriate to list the organizations an individual volunteered for, it would literally fill an entire page of this newspaper to list the things John so generously helped with, and that's not to mention the constant calls from friends that began with "John, would you be free to come help us with ..." He was available to all — even when he wasn't available. The day of his passing he had been volunteering all morning at a clean up at the East Alton Fire Station. After that he went back to work at Robert's Cove Basin where, for four years, he steered the operations like a faithful and much loved sea captain.
Born and raised in Alton, John Sewell Roberts, went through the Alton school system and then continued his studies one year at the University of New Hampshire. There he began volunteering for the fire department in Durham. That "spark" of helping in such a vital capacity grew. He devoted much of his life to the service of firefighting. He worked several years as a full-time professional firefighter in Laconia. He then returned to school to get a degree from New Hampshire Technical Institute which eventually led him on to ever more interesting and demanding career opportunities, all of which involved fixing what others thought couldn't be fixed, solving problems others gave up on, and inventing ways to do everything better. At one time, when he was working as a technician for a German company that made embroidery machines, he was sent to South America on a service call. It was one of his most demanding service calls. He made sure he did the work well. He never had to return.
His overseas travels also included once visiting a fellow Alton High School classmate, an exchange student from Norway. But perhaps one of the most touching ways he reached out to the larger world was in 2009 when a group of Russian blacksmiths came to New Hampshire to dedicate the Russian Bench of Friendship to the Lakes Region. Working along side the Russian blacksmiths to install the bench did more than John ever realized. When his Russian friends learned of his passing, the email that came back from the blacksmiths said, "We mourn with you. Not even an ocean separates us in this. We can honestly say that John's kindness and generosity left such a mark that he became the face of America to us in Russia." John, in fact, had a great love of blacksmithing. For several years he had been apprenticing as a blacksmith at the Musterfield Farm in Sutton.
Despite his astonishing work load, John was a tireless son, brother, husband, and father. His beloved wife, Barbara, who works an evening shift at the Wolfeboro Bay Care and Rehabilitation Center recalled how John would bring her dinner. On special occasions, it would include hot fried onion rings with ketchup. The bottle of ketchup he kept in the glove compartment of their truck. "Doesn't every real man keep a bottle of ketchup in his glove compartment for his wife?" she said, smiling faintly through the tears.
John was indeed a real man, a real friend, and a blessing to this community. Like a true Roberts, his presence will not diminish but only be more and more recognized as the years go on. John leaves behind his wife, Barbara E. Roberts; his children, Christopher John Roberts and Daniel Edson Roberts; stepson, Scott Richard Moren; his parents, Jean and Irving Roberts; and his brother and sister, Thomas Roberts and Barbara B. Roberts.
The family requests that any donations be sent to the Musterfield Farm, P.O. Box 118, North Sutton, NH, 03260.