Fredrick (Fred) Henry Roberts, 91, of the Glenwood Community, died suddenly Friday, December 9 at his home. He was born in Blount County on October 28, 1920, and was one of eight children of the late T. H. and Fannie B. Roberts.
Mr. Roberts attended the Glenwood School and graduated from Greeneville High School in 1939. At Greeneville High School, he participated in different sports, including varsity baseball.
Following graduation from high school, Mr. Roberts began his career as an electrical and refrigeration technician in Greene County. In 1942, he married Katherine Luttrell of Greeneville. That same year, he enlisted in the United States Navy and was stationed in Washington, D. C., where he served for the duration of World War II.
A significant part of Mr. Roberts’ duties involved war-related photography and film produced by the by Communications and Photography Corps of the Department of the Navy. During his initial Navy induction training, Fred was chosen to be the featured character in short feature films which were used in recruiting for the new construction battalions being formed by the U. S. Navy. Troops in the Navy’s construction battalions became known as the “Sea Bees,” and Fred served as their recruiting spokesman in short films that were shown nationally in movie theaters before and following the newsreels and feature length films. Included in his public roles were “From Selectee to Seabee,” a short feature film which follows the experiences of young “Jim Johnson” (played by Fred) from his pre-war work as an auto mechanic in Indiana to a U. S. Navy Sea Bee providing construction support for the troops in the Pacific war effort. He was also featured in another short film entitled “Destination: Island X,” a film that detailed the history and contribution of the Navy Sea Bees to the war effort. Most of his movie work was done at the Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California, where he met and worked with such notables as Cecil B. DeMille and Gene Barry.
Mr. Roberts’ wartime duties in Washington also involved using the electrical skills he had learned in Greeneville under the guidance of Mr. Ralph Phinney. His family recalls that one of his more memorable experiences in wartime Washington involved setting up the radio broadcast equipment in the Oval Office of the White House for one of the first radio addresses given by newly sworn-in President Harry S. Truman. Fred recounted that on this particular occasion, the President was having trouble with the speech that had been written for him and at one point, after a good deal of frustration, directed everyone (including the admiral) to sit down and give him the time he required.
Following his return to Greeneville, Mr. Roberts continued his career as an electrician and a refrigeration specialist, working with Mr. Ralph Phinney, the Luttrell Electric Company, the Magnavox Company, and in later years with his own company, Roberts Electric.
Mr. Roberts was a life-long member of the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church. He sang in the choir all his adult life and served as an elder at different times. Recently he received recognition from the Glenwood Ruritan Club as a founding member and for his 60 years of faithful service. He was married for 61 years to Katherine Luttrell Roberts and is remembered for the kind and loving care he provided until her death in 2003. He was also preceded in death by an infant son, Steven Roberts; his son, Thomas Frank Roberts; sister and brother-in-law, Mary Frank and Dick Ayers; brothers and sisters-in-law, Harry and Louise Roberts, Earl and Georgia Roberts, Edward and Johnnie Roberts, Jack Roberts, and Gordon and Sue Roberts; sister, Elizabeth Anne Morrell; and a daughter-in-law, Myra Robinson (Mrs. Lynn) Roberts.
Mr. Roberts is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law, Lynn and Belinda Roberts of Knoxville, Doug and Susan Roberts of Greeneville, and Lewis Roberts of Greeneville; by grandsons Bryan Roberts and wife Jennifer of Knoxville, Daniel Roberts of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Josh Roberts and his wife Crystal, and Chris Roberts of Greeneville; by granddaughters Amy Cobble and husband Kenny Cobble, and Karen Roberts, all of Greeneville; and by great-grandchildren, Lauren and Jackson Roberts of Knoxville, and Kenton Cobble, Briley Sauceman, Jermiah and Lilly Roberts, and Haley Roberts all of Greeneville. He is also survived by a brother-in-law, Kyle Morrell of Greeneville; and sisters-in-law, Marjorie Johnson (Mrs. Jack) Roberts of Knoxville and Elizabeth Luttrell (Mrs. Bob) Ellenburg of Maryville. Survivors also include many nieces and nephews. Fred also leaves behind his good friend Al Mihaleck.
The family will receive friends on Sunday, December 11 at Doughty-Stevens Funeral Home from two until six o’clock. The funeral service will be held at the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church on Monday, December 12 at one o’clock with internment following in the church cemetery. Officiating minister will be the Reverend Doctor Brian Wyatt.
Pallbearers will be Bryan Roberts, Daniel Roberts, Kenny Cobble, Richard Roberts, Charles Brumley, Charles Bowers, Jerry Hartsell, and John McInturff, Jr.
Honorary pallbearers will be Dr. Andy Roberts and members of the Glenwood Ruritan Club.
Memorial contributions may be made to Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, 30 Timber Ridge Road, Greeneville, Tennessee 37743.