Can you imagine a time when our bustling suburban county was mainly farmland? One local resident certainly can: Richard Roberts, who turned 100 on March 9.
“Those were the good old days,” said Roberts at a surprise party that was thrown for him by Meals on Wheels of Rockland this past Friday.
Born in Rockland County on March 9, 1911, Roberts grew up on his family’s farm in New City in a home that dated back to the 1700s. The 60 acres, which was in the family for some 200 years, had fruit trees, vegetables, cows, chickens, and other livestock. The tale of his early life harkens back to a time when Rockland was a much more rural place.
“On our farm we had a little bit of everything,” noted Roberts. “My mother made her own butter. Every section here had farms.”
In 1942, when he married, Roberts built a home on his family’s land and had a varied career including being a farmer of course, but also a mason, and employment with the Clarkstown School District, from which he retired in 1981.
During his long life Roberts has seen the county change quite a bit. A lot of his family’s land was sold and developed into a residential area. While change of the landscape is part of life, and certainly part of Rockland’s modern history, Roberts doesn’t necessarily think it was always for the best.
“The county got torn up, for better or for worse,” he said. “That’s progress they say, but it’s hard to see it happen when you grew up here.”
Ever the nature lover, Roberts spends a lot of his free time bird watching, with a particular affinity for chickadees. He and his late wife Edith also raised show horses.
“I use to hunt and fish when I had the time,” he said.
Roberts also likes to stay aware of current events and listens to the news on his radio everyday. Moreover he is a regular parishioner at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in New City, attending Mass whenever he can.
“He drove until about 3 years ago,” added Sue Atkins, his grand-niece who flew in from Seattle for the birthday festivities.
He is the picture of what we should all hope to be at 100—alert, active and engaged with the world around him.
In part, this is thanks to Meals on Wheels of Rockland County, whose homebound meal delivery program Roberts is a beneficiary of.
“The Meals on Wheels volunteers do a great job,” he said.
Through their programs and the work of their small army of volunteers, seniors like Roberts can enjoy their lives and continue to participate in the community.