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updated: 3/14/2013 6:41 PM

Rolling Meadows loses one of its first residents

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  • Bill and Martha Roberts sit at their kitchen table in 2008 with the family room, converted from a carport, in the background. They bought one of the first homes in Rolling Meadows for about $19,000 in 1962 at a time when Kimball Hill was putting 20 of them up a week.

       Bill and Martha Roberts sit at their kitchen table in 2008 with the family room, converted from a carport, in the background. They bought one of the first homes in Rolling Meadows for about $19,000 in 1962 at a time when Kimball Hill was putting 20 of them up a week.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer 2008

  • Bill and Martha Roberts bought one of the first Kimball Hill ranch houses built in Rolling Meadows for about $19,000 in 1962.

       Bill and Martha Roberts bought one of the first Kimball Hill ranch houses built in Rolling Meadows for about $19,000 in 1962.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer 2008

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald Correspondent

Martha Roberts was one of Rolling Meadows' first residents, and she worked tirelessly to interest others in the city's history and museum. Roberts died Feb. 26 at age 86.

"She had a marvelous amount of energy," said May Bass, her longtime friend and colleague at the Rolling Meadows Historical Museum. "She always wanted us to branch out more, to do more outreach and bring more people in. She just pushed the boundaries more than we did."

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Roberts and her husband, Bill, were among the first homeowners in Rolling Meadows, along with Bass. Married just three years, the couple moved from Chicago in 1955.

"My father was a heating contractor and he said the homes were well-built," Bill Roberts recalls. "All I remember is we had a brand-new house -- on a muddy street."

The couple bought one of the three-bedroom homes being built at a rate of 20 per week by Kimball Hill Homes.

"There were a lot of other people our age, with the same aged kids," Bill Roberts adds. "We were raising our families together. It was a lot of fun."

His wife had worked as an executive secretary for the corporate attorney for Marshall Field & Co. before they started their family. Once their three children were raised, she returned to work for a local neurologist before working as an executive secretary for the vice president of research and development at UOP in Des Plaines.

Her administrative skills proved handy in retirement, when Roberts became involved with the historical museum and the Rolling Meadows Senior Center, as well St. Simon's Episcopal Church in Arlington Heights.

Roberts became interested in local history efforts after Rolling Meadows officials opened the museum in 2002 as a replica of the first ranch-style homes built by Kimball Hill.

Within the first two years of volunteering, Roberts was named president of the Rolling Meadows Historical Society, and she led the group until 2007.

"She was passionate about the historical society and leading us into new territory," Bass adds. "I joined because of her. Her interest in it was contagious. She was always talking it up and looking for ways of putting the museum in the public eye."

Friends and family members credit Roberts' boundless energy to her interest in reading and lifelong learning. She also was an active member of Roosevelt University's Institute for Continued Learning, based in Schaumburg.

Besides her husband, Roberts is survived by her children and their spouses: Jan and Bob, Jim and Tammy, and Scott and Vicki; as well as three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at St. Simon's Episcopal Church, 717 W. Kirchoff Road in Arlington Heights.

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