Jean Roberts

Jean Roberts lived from 1920-2019. Her long life can be described in one word: Impossible.

She was the matriarch of our extended family. Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother — and she treated each and every one of us equally.

Jean was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, London, in 1920. When Jean was four years old, her Irish- born father was offered a job with the Nestles company in Sydney, Australia, and consequently decided to accept the position. So Jean, her mother, brother Ian and father set sail for Australia, a country that they literally knew nothing about.

Tragically, soon after their arrival in Sydney, Jean’s father was killed in a freak train accident, leaving Jean’s mother to find ways to make ends meet. Being the resourceful person that her mother was, she taught herself shorthand, purchased a bicycle, pedaled her way across the Sydney Harbor Bridge and applied to a law firm as secretary and was accepted.

Life was not easy for the young family but the Church of England diocese in Sydney helped them to get back on their feet. Eventually Jean’s mother decided to move her family to Austinmer in the Illawarra south coast, and she and Jean ran a boarding house there. I remember my mother telling me how she used to pick up bobby pins off the floor left by the guests, and she would save them to pin up her long red hair. While living in Austinmer, the teenage Jean attended a dance and there she met Paul Roberts .. the love of her life and her future husband. They eventually married in a plain civil ceremony at a court house in downtown Sydney. The couple purchased a house in Chatswood Sydney and settled down to married life in the suburbs.

Soon after, Jean gave birth to her first child Helen Pamela Roberts, her sister Elaine Margaret Roberts, and Alan William Roberts. Unfortunately, tragedy hit the young family and Helen at age 10 became ill with a heart condition and passed away. To help their grief somewhat, the family decided to move south to Wollongong and Jean’s husband Paul opened a car repair business namely Paul Roberts and Sons Motors. My mother acted as secretary for the business, typing all invoices answering phones, etc., while juggling to raise two teenage children and a new sibling Victor Paul Roberts, who was born soon after their move to Wollongong.

Jean never learned to drive or ride a bicycle, but she walked every day to the shops to buy food for the family and cooked up wonderful meals for all to enjoy. One might use the term “Ranger” to describe her red headed personality! If she wanted to tell you something, she didn’t beat around the bush she would tell it to you straight up!

At age 59 her husband Paul contracted ALS and passed away two years later leaving Jean to sell the business and move further south to Dapto where she purchased a home. She lived in Dapto for some 20 odd years until the inevitable ravages of age forced her to sell the property and to spend her last days at the Ridgeview Aged care facility where she peacefully passed away in her sleep at the grand old age of 99 years.

She leaves content in the knowledge, that she leaves behind children Alan William Roberts, Elaine Margaret Roberts and Victor Paul Roberts; grandchildren Grant Jones, Katie Roberts, Luke Roberts, Troy Roberts, Matthew Roberts and Melody Rautio Roberts; and great-grandchildren: Ella Roberts, Hudson Roberts, Leo Rautio, Poppy Rautio.

I know it would be her wish that this great family will continue on in the spirit of unity working together to carry on her legacy.

— Submitted by Elaine Jones, daughter

Story First Published: 2019-11-01