On Saturday, Aug. 7, 1912, the Bull Moose Party nominated Theodore Roosevelt for president during a Chicago convention. That same day and several hundred miles to the east, a baby girl was born to Ernest and Ethel Morton in Johnstown, Penn.
They named her Rozilla, and on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, she celebrated her 100th birthday at her Bangor home. Forget about Roosevelt; he’s history. The day and the week belonged to Rozilla Morton Roberts, a happy centenarian who enjoyed an even bigger bash a few days later as relatives feted her at the Hampden Highlands United Methodist Church.
“I feel no different from yesterday,” Rozilla said with a smile as she fielded the traditional “how does it feel to be 100” question during a family gathering at her Winterberry Heights apartment. As great-granddaughters Samantha and Sidney Bouchey giggled and laughed while playing nearby, Rozilla visited with son and daughter-in-law David and Mary Lou Roberts and granddaughter Melissa Bouchey.
Rozilla moved to Maine with her brother, Rutledge, and sister, Ellen, after their father “bought my uncle’s advertising business in Portland. I was a freshman” at Deering High School; “I was probably 15,” she recalled.
After graduating from Deering — where she played girls’ varsity basketball — Rozilla attended college, taught schools in Cumberland, Dover-Foxcroft, and Presque Isle, and married Lewis Roberts in 1936. He worked as a county agent for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Asked to what she could attribute her 100 years, Rozilla replied “good health” while glancing briefly at David.
“She has a positive disposition,” he volunteered.
“She’s interested in everything: world events, people, the Red Sox,” Mary Lou said.
Ah, yes, the Sox: Rozilla’s a diehard fan from way back. Sometime during the past century — David estimated “it happened” at least 50 years ago, if not longer — Rozilla started cheering for the Boston Red Sox. The team’s celebrating a Fenway Park centennial this year, albeit in a losing fashion, but Rozilla’s still cheering for them.
That’s the mark of a true Red Sox fan.
An avid reader, Rozilla has a Kindle that lets her enlarge the type. She likes to read “nature books.”
Rozilla also “has a big sweet tooth,” said Melissa, who along with her brother, Michael, and sister, Linda Snow, often spent summers with their grandmother at the family camp on Sebec Lake. “We used to wake up in the morning and run down to see her” and find out what tasty treats might be already cooking, Melissa recalled.
She noticed that her grandmother liked to eat “peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches.” Sharing that memory with Rozilla elicited laughter as the Roberts talked about the good times that took place long ago.
“She taught us arts and crafts,” Melissa said. “We learned a lot from her, and we had a lot of fun as we did.”
Rozilla expressed her pleasure about her upcoming birthday bash in Hampden. “I will see a lot of the children,” she said, referring to nieces and nephews and other relatives, some of whom are in their 70s, according to David.
Planning to join the Aug. 11 festivities were Melissa’s husband, Jesse; Michael Roberts; and Linda Snow, her husband, Gary, and their children, Abby and Aidan. They helped celebrate the centennial birthday of “a special woman who means the world to us,” Melissa said.
“She has been a real gift to all of us in every aspect of life,” Mary Lou said. “”She’s a real inspiration to all of us.”
“I feel very fortunate to have her all these years,” David said, looking at his mother as, beaming from all the attention, she sat beside him on the couch. “We still enjoy her company a lot.”