Family of the month: Willie and Mary Roberts
By Marquavia Smith
Special to the Outlook
Early in his career as a professor at FAMU, Willie Roberts didn’t just go to the faculty dining hall to eat. He had to be there to see one of his female peers, too.
His admiration for her grew each day, as he tried to get the nerves up to engage her in conversation.
That was more than 53 years ago and they are still talking and doing a whole lot more with each other. In fact, they established a family not long after Mary Roberts took on Willie’s last name as his bride.
They’ll tell you the flames still burn strongly. Especially Willie who has told the story that led to their first meeting more times than he could recall.
“I used to go in the faculty dining hall everyday around noon, and she will come in with her friends,” he said. “I noticed she would usually finish eating before other folks, and I just used to watch her.
“After awhile I started bothering her, and then we started dating and the rest is history.”
It didn’t take long for the couple to realize that they had much in common, especially their religious beliefs. Mary, 78, and Willie, 83, also are passionate about education.
Their values have made the couple an easy choice to be recognized as the Capital Outlook’s March Family of the Month.
Robert’s willingness to overcome his initial fear of approaching the woman who would become his wife brought together two people who grew up thousands of miles from each other. She is from Oklahoma and he is from Baldwin.
She came to Tallahassee as a professor at FAMU, where she taught piano for 43 years in the music department. Early instructions from her mother molded her into a savvy pianist. She’s gone on to perform concerts with the FAMU and FSU symphonic bands.
She is involved with the children’s choir at Bethel AME Church. Her role is sparingly these days, though.
Willie Roberts started at FAMU as an undergraduate student. Then, after earning a graduate degree from FSU, he became a mathematics professor at FAMU.
He attributes being able to use their talents to earn a livelihood to a higher power.
“As a mathematician, I believe that God is the master mathematician,” he said. “As a musician, Mary believes God is the master musician.”
The couple comes from a Christian background – one of the things they discovered early that they have in common. Both of their fathers served as deacons in their respective churches.
“We are really from the same kind of background,” Roberts said. “Both of our families are church people.”