Roberta Thomas Stoddard
October 27, 1927 – June 24, 2020
Roberta Thomas Stoddard passed away peacefully of natural causes on June 24, 2020, in Denver, Colorado, her home for the last forty years of her life. Roberta was born in Winterset, Iowa, on October 27, 1927, at the home of her grandparents. Roberta was the fourth child of her parents, Vern and Goldie Thomas, who now had a young family of an older daughter, twins, and a new baby. Roberta’s childhood and early adulthood on a busy farm during the Depression and the years leading up to World War II formed her character. Alert and lively and keenly observant and curious, she learned the duties of the household as well as the outdoor disciplines: gathering eggs, feeding chickens and dressing them for market, hoeing the garden, picking cherries, caring for the lambs, and before she was twelve, driving tractor in field. She always said, “You did what had to be done!” She attended a one-room country school deep in the rolling farmland of Iowa, a little girl, keeping up with her sisters and brother as they walked the miles to school and back. Her diary shows that her favorite childhood person was her brother Gene. With her sisters, Annadell and Imogene, she had a bond that lasted all of their lives. Through the years, they exchanged weekly letters, always beginning with a weather report and likely ending with an anecdote that required the summary, “Way it goes. More later. Love Bertie.” She did the same with her daughters: “Way it goes. More later. Love, Mom.” These early, formative years, included an intense interest in the larger world. Roberta loved to go to the box at the road, get the newspaper, and read it front to back, even as a little girl. One memory, told often, was of her lying on a blanket on the grass on a summer afternoon, watching the birds fly and the clouds float by, and wanting to be up there with them, longing for “something more.” After graduating from Orient High School at sixteen, having been a competitive and talented women’s basketball player, Roberta began her adult life’s adventures. Her father took her to Kansas City to visit a relative; Roberta found a job at TWA, where she learned confidence in herself and her work and began to broaden and deepen her understanding of life “in the workaday world.” Roberta took these lessons of duty, discipline, practical understanding, lifelong learning, efficiency and promptness into her working life and her life as a wife and mother. Roberta met her husband Lee of sixty-three years on the train at the close of World War II. Roberta was riding home to Iowa, having visited her sister and brother-in-law, stationed in the Northwest. A Pearl Harbor survivor stationed in the Pacific, Lee was returning from leave at home in Idaho. Sitting together on the long ride gave them time to get to know one another. Roberta and Lee were married on September 7, 1947, beginning their life together in the post-World War II years of American patriotism and prosperity. Roberta and Lee shared the widely-held values of their time, an ethic of work and family, God and country. Lee worked for Maytag Company in Newton, Iowa, and it was here that Lee and Roberta made their home for their family of five, rearing their three girls, Karen, Carolyn and Debra; later, Lee was sought by Jack Murray of Speed Queen in Ripon, Wisconsin, where the family moved for the remainder of these child-raising years. Jack left an observation in his memoirs that Lee was a good man and Roberta was a great asset in her own right. The homes that Lee and Roberta created for their family were busy and comfortable. The girls were reared with the same love, discipline and values; yet each one was allowed to be her own person, to find her own gifts and talent, and to pursue her interests within the balanced framework of an individual and common good. Roberta’s long desire was for family love, happy family occasions and memories, and mutual family support, which Roberta and Lee modeled all of their days. The years in Ripon marked the beginning of Roberta’s long working career. At Ripon College, she worked in the business office, making certain that her hours allowed her to be home before the girls left for school and home before they returned. She managed home and career with an energy and dedication which were familiar markers of her character. The auditor of Ripon College reported that he had never seen an error-free audit until the years he certified the books prepared by Roberta’s team. Roberta and Lee were at their best as a couple, always happy to be playing bridge, attending dances, entertaining neighbors and friends. They made lifelong friends, first in Newton and then in Ripon, friends with whom they had family picnics in Maytag Park, celebrated birthdays, formed bridge clubs and with whom they traveled yearly. This “Labor Day Group” eventually settled on the Aspen Music Festival as their favored destination. With Ripon friends, they formed bridge clubs and a Supper Club that featured cooking skills, bridge competition and lively conversation about current issues of the day. With these Ripon friends and family, Roberta and Lee rafted the Salmon River, in Idaho, a river flowing near Lee’s home in Salmon, and one the girls and all of the friends knew from Lee’s stories. Travel was always a primary characteristic of their lives. Lee traveled extensively for Speed Queen and Roberta regularly accompanied him for the conventions and board meetings. Family vacations, both fun and educational, were a strong part of family life. The family rode the train to the West to visit the Stoddard’s, made the visits to Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C, the national parks, and into the cities for a play or a film opening. They traveled to Europe to visit Karen, all of these trips that “seemed like such good ideas, such fun.” During the Colorado years, they traveled to visit family and to be with family, whether in the Rockies or in the Midwest, or places farther afield. All of this was described by Roberta as “being on the go,” and was a natural part of her life. For Roberta and Lee, hospitality was a mark of character. They loved having family and friends into their home. If you knew them, you probably had dinner at Roberta’s table or spent time on their patio; if you knew their daughters and their spouses, you probably knew Lee and Roberta, too, were invited to their home and knew they were interested in you. The Denver years allowed Roberta to live the joys of home, cooking and gardening and entertaining, but these were years when Roberta balanced home and family life with an exciting career in Denver’s booming building industry through her work at Brock Homes, Grupe Company and Koelbel Builders. With each company, Roberta’s fondest memories were of the work she thoroughly enjoyed, whether numbers and contracts, or planning and projects. Her work held lots of variety, whether she was planning a regional conference in a distant place or strategizing the transport of Grupe Clydesdales from California to the Western Stock Show. She was enriched by the friendship of colleagues and the confidence of employers she respected. Her skills and contributions were valued, Grupe giving her a Dedication Award at one of their annual meetings. Roberta lived her life with a lively intellect, a giving heart, and an enthusiasm for “the next thing down the road.” She carried her crosses with a dutiful dedication, wanting very much to do good. The survivor skills necessitated by her early life experiences became a source of life-long self-reliance. She often said, “If there’s work to do, do it and get it done,”; “If there is a problem to solve and you can’t fix it, work around it!” but “Never, never give up!” During a great trial in her life, when her self-reliance failed her, she confided that Jesus appeared to her. He said to her, “All will be well.” She believed Him and it was true. All was well. In the final years of her life, having given her husband Lee such wonderful care until his passing in 2010, Roberta gradually came to understand that her self-reliance without Lee by her side, combined with the natural effects of aging, would not be sufficient. She returned, in many ways, to those survivor skills she learned as a child, carefully making difficult choices that would keep her as active and seemingly self-reliant as possible. Those who knew and loved Roberta, who enjoyed her friendship and her gifts of self, know now that all of the wounds of this life are healed in the blood from His cross. She is healed and whole, without a need to survive or be self-reliant, a much-loved, much-wanted child of God her Father. We rejoice for her and with her, for He has shown her again that “All is well.”
Roberta was preceded in death by her parents, Vern and Goldie Thomas of Adair County, Iowa; her husband of sixty-three years, Lee Stoddard; her sister Annadell Erb and brother-in-law Guy Erb; her sister Imogene Wilmeth; and, her sister-in-law, Mary Susan Thomas. Roberta is survived by her daughter Karen Stoddard Duehring and her husband David Duehring of Green Lake, Wisconsin; her daughter Carolyn Stoddard of Waukesha, Wisconsin and her daughters Eliza and Gillian; and her daughter Debra Jessop and her husband Mark Jessop of Denver, Colorado. Roberta is also survived by her brother Gene Thomas of Orient, Iowa; her brother-in-law Orlo Wilmeth of Des Moines, Iowa; and, numerous nieces and nephews of the Thomas and Stoddard families.
The Funeral Service on June 29th will be broadcasted via Zoom. Please use the following information to connect:
Time: Jun 29, 2020 09:45 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting ---- https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89553052147?pwd=WkJYYTNWb3c3clFWTmxORjBTMjBrQT09
Meeting ID: 895 5305 2147 Password: 780153
In Lieu of flowers, please send any donations to Wellshire Presbyterian Church: 2999 S. Colorado Blvd. Denver, Colorado 80222
Monday, June 29, 2020
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Roberta Thomas Stoddard
William and Susan Duven
June 29, 2020
We were saddened by the news of Roberta’s passing. Heaven will rejoice in her appearance.
I chuckled in the obituary..... that if you knew Roberta you had dinner at her table or sat on her patio. We were lucky to have experienced both on Grape St.
Fond memories from Newton to Denver. She was such a wonderful woman and will be missed by all.
Blessings to all the family.
Bill and Susan Duven.
June 27, 2020
June 27, 2020
In the late 1950s, my parents went on a trip to California and I was sent to Newton, Iowa, to spend a few days with my Aunt Bertie & Uncle Lee. I was about 4 years old. My Aunt Bertie was aghast that I did not yet know how to tie my own shoes. She taught me.
I think this may have been the first step toward my life in higher education.
Professor Thomas L. Wilmeth, Ph.D.
P.S. The lesson stuck – I can still tie my shoes!
June 26, 2020
Roberta was a cherished neighbor of ours for many years. She made the best pies and pie crust— and since I do not have that talent— she would bring me pre- made crusts or apple pies that I could freeze. Yum. Our youngest- Adam- would often just wander over to visit And spend time with Roberta. We simply loved her energy and spirit. Love, The Wise Guys—- Steve, Robin, Jeff and Adam.