In Tribute: Superintendent followed family tradition

By Kevin Wilson, Freedom New Mexico

Schools employed W.M. Roberts, but he didn’t just draw paychecks there.

They’re where his family worked, where he taught his family to work, and where he met lifelong friends. He was 98 years old.

The longtime Farwell Schools superintendent died Oct. 9 of congestive heart failure and pneumonia.

Born Nov. 11, 1909, in Jones County, Texas, Roberts grew up with 12 siblings.

“He had eight or seven siblings that survived adulthood,” son Charles Roberts said. “Most, if not all of them, ended up in teaching.

“It seemed like what was expected,” said Charles Roberts, a retired educator in Fort Stockton, Texas. “I never really considered everything else.”

W.M., short for Willie Moody, started teaching in Wylie, Texas, when he was 18 years old. He later continued his own education, with a bachelor’s degree at North Texas State and a master’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University.

In 1959, he became the superintendent of Farwell schools, and held the position off and on for 24 years while also teaching math classes. Charles Roberts said that while his father got into the administration side of education quickly, he never lost the personal relationship with students.

“You could ask him, when did so and so graduate, or when did that happen, he’d tell you,” Charles said.

Larry Gregory also took a math class from Roberts, then followed in his footsteps. He has been teaching at Farwell since 1983, and has served as superintendent for 11 years.

Roberts’ example is one Gregory has tried to follow.

“He was very much active in all the extracurricular activities,” Gregory said. “He was a man you could talk to very easily. His door was always open. He knew the school business, he knew the people in the school business across the state.”

Wife Nancy Roberts, a retired teacher at Farwell, came to the school. The two married in 1989, and she said an attraction was built on his sense of fairness and concern for others.

“He enjoyed getting to know people and helping them,” she said. “He was always willing to give advice or just comfort.”

That didn’t end with his retirement, Nancy said. Many vacations were spent visiting old coworkers and students in Texas, and fishing trips to Colorado turned into surprise reunions when they crossed paths with former Farwell residents.

And, even in recent years, Roberts would show up at the school cafeteria. It wasn’t for a special activity — just lunch.

“I think he enjoyed the students and the staff,” Gregory said. “He was greeted very warmly, and I think he enjoyed the students.”

In Tribute is a regular feature. To suggest an honoree, contact CNJ Managing Editor Rick White at 763-6991 or by e-mail: rwhite@cnjonline.com