Goodbye to a dear, old friend

Published 9:14 pm Saturday, March 18, 2017

I remember reading Frank Roberts’ stories in The Virginian-Pilot when I was still new to the newspaper business, trying to read as many different writers’ work as I could to get a better understanding of what it took to be a community journalist.

Frank was a longtime correspondent for the Suffolk Sun, and many long-time Suffolk residents will remember him covering some event or another that they or their children took part in.

He also wrote many entertainment stories for that paper, and I always enjoyed the opportunity to read his interviews with musicians who were coming to town for concerts.

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So several years ago, when my office phone rang and the voice on the other end of the line said, “This is Frank Roberts. I don’t know if you know who I am, but I’d like to send you some columns here and there,” I immediately sat up in my chair.

“Of course, I know that name. Are you THE Frank Roberts?” I asked. “From the Pilot?”

He had been retired from the newspaper business for some time, and in his mid-80s, he had decided that he wanted to dabble in the business he had loved so much and for so long.

I’m no fool. I immediately said, “Yes,” and I was soon amazed at how prolific this man was. His knowledge of old movies, stars of the Golden Age of cinema and country and western musicians was encyclopedic. And his columns about all of those topics were interesting and personal.

Frank wrote for the Suffolk News-Herald for about a year before I finally had a chance to meet him. He lived in North Carolina, and on a trip into Suffolk one afternoon, he and his wife and granddaughter stopped by the office.

We had a great time talking about the newspaper business, comparing what it’s like today to what it was like years ago and getting to know one another personally.

I could always count on Frank to take on an entertainment-related assignment, and for a couple of years he was my go-to writer for stories about Peanut Fest entertainment and acts coming to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

He brought a folksy style to those stories that I always enjoyed, and I felt a bit out of my league when I was editing them.

Frank Marvin Roberts, 88, died on Wednesday at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City, surrounded by the family he loved, including his wife of nearly 57 years, Valeria White Roberts.

He was a veteran of World War II and a member of Hertford Baptist Church. More than that, he was my friend, and I will miss him dearly.