Kenneth George Roberts, 71, died Dec. 20, 2017, after coping with the effects of dementia for far too long. Though we may never know what he was aware of during the last decade of his life, we can find peace in knowing that he was surrounded by loving family and friends to the end.
Born on June 28, 1946, to Helen Miriam Johnson and George Harold Roberts in San Francisco, Calif., he grew up in an idyllic time for which he was perfectly suited. His natural disposition to just be a good guy could be witnessed by all who knew him. He excelled in athletics, and after graduating from high school he went on to play college football at San Francisco State University, where he majored in physical education. He met his future wife, Julie Ann Kuehn, there, and they married on Aug. 31, 1970. They stayed in the city while he finished school, and trained as a member of the 1972 Olympic wrestling team. At one point, he was ranked second in the nation for Greco-Roman wrestling as a heavyweight. He stayed back from the games to be home for the birth of their first child.
In October 1972, he was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. He served in many ways: going to where the need was great, serving as a Ministerial Servant, and finally by taking on the role of Elder. As much as he appreciated his gifts of body, he much preferred his gifts of spirit, and served faithfully for many years.
After returning to school to get his degree in teaching, Kenn worked with the inmates at California State Penitentiary in Vacaville, from 1988 until his retirement in 2003, as a teacher in the recreation yard and classroom. The inmates quickly grew to respect him after he and an inmate named Rock, watched by inmates and guards alike, squared off in a wrestling match (which Rock had been badgering Kenn to do for many months). After pinning Rock in three seconds, Rock claimed that it wasn’t fair and wanted a rematch. Obligingly, Kenn gave him a few more chances, with the same result. After that, no one bothered to mess around with Coach!
On July 26, 1997, Kenn married Vera Marie Scott, and following his retirement, they moved to Marion, Montana, to be with his family. At this point he had already been experiencing some of the effects of dementia, but they continued to enjoy hiking, trips to Glacier Park, watching their grandchildren’s sports and other activities, and the wonderful Montana people for some time.
Kenn is survived by his wife, Vera; daughters, Alice (Brett) Bennetts of Kalispell, Eden Roberts of Kalispell, and Sharon Sherman of Loomis; son Isaac (Linda) Roberts of Sacramento; his stepsons Oran (Teresa) of San Francisco and Jereb (Amber) of San Diego; sister Kathy (Tom) Clausen of Benicia, Calif.; brother Keith (Jenny) Roberts of Sacramento; grandchildren Natasha, Malachi, Rhiannon and Anika Bennetts, Jonah (and his wife Natalya), Maya, Solomon, and Ava Franchi, Michael and Arlo Sherman, Jasper Sherman-Holt; great-grandson Jackson Plummer; and nieces and nephews as well. He was preceded in death by his father and mother, and by brother Raymond Thomas Roberts.
The family will be holding a celebration of life this summer where family, friends, and well-wishers are welcome. As a gesture of hope, and in an effort to help find answers for many, the family has chosen to participate in research geared at investigating the effects of trauma to the brain resulting from the high impacts associated with the sports he loved so much, and will be working with Boston University School of Medicine to do so. To send a note of condolence to the family please visit www.buffalohillfh.com. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home is caring for the family.