Gordon Phillip Roberts, beloved husband, father and friend, passed away on Monday, April 21, 2014, with his family at his side.
Phil was born in Gilmer, April 14, 1932, the only child to Loraine Powers and Gordon King Roberts. Phil's father owned the Chrysler dealership in Gilmer but was also interested in aviation. He had learned to fly from an old barnstormer and owned a Waco airplane. When World War II broke out, that put an end to people buying cars.
The United States was in desperate need of training for pilots so Mr. Roberts, in conjunction with Kilgore Junior College and the United States Government, opened a training facility for Navy pilots at Elder Field in Kilgore. During this period of time, he met Walter Beech, founder of Beech Aircraft, Wichita, Kan., who also had a training school for Navy pilots.
When the war ended, Mr. Roberts went into business with Walter Beech and was awarded the Beechcraft dealership and distributorship for Dallas and East Texas. Mr. Roberts moved his family to Tyler and established a dealership and maintenance facility for Beech Aircraft Corp. at Pounds Field and in Dallas at Love Field which he managed out of his businesses, Tyler Aero, Texas Aviation and Roberts Aviation (now Johnson Aviation) at Pounds Field.
Since Phil was surrounded by aviation, he learned to fly at a very early age and soloed on his 16th birthday in a 40 Horse Cub. He had a license to fly before he had a driver's license. Phil graduated from Tyler High School in 1949 where he was on the golf team. He attended Virginia Military Institute in Lynchburg, Va. After spending a summer working for his close friend, Jack Bunn's father, who was in the oil business, Phil decided that the oil patch was his destiny and transferred from VMI to The University of Texas at Austin, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in geology and petroleum engineering in 1958. He was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
Phil served in the United States Army during the Korean War as a survey specialist based at K-8 Air Force Base in Pusan, Korea, for one year. The next year he served at Camp Hakata on the island of Kyushu in Japan. The general of the base saw Phil playing golf one day, was duly impressed, and asked him to wind up his survey job and take over the base golf course, which he gladly did.
Phil was employed as a geologist by Trice Production Co. in Longview in 1958. He was transfered to Houston as district manager in 1961 to 1965 when he became an independent and started his own company, R.O.M. E. (Roberts Oil and Mineral Exploration). He was a member of AAPG, a lifelong member of the Houston Geological Society and was a founder and president of the Houston Geological Log Library. He was a member of The Petroleum Club of Houston, Memorial Drive Country Club and Westminster United Methodist Church where he married Carrie Anna Crockett McGee in March 1980, in Houston.
Phil was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church, growing up in Marvin United Methodist in Tyler, and was a member of the Emerald Bay Community Church, Emerald Bay, Bullard.
In high school and college, Phil was well known for his water-skiing ability. Reading a magazine about the 1949 World Water Skiing Championship in France, he was intrigued by the slalom ski but it was not readily available in the U.S. So from the magazine pictures, Phil made his own slalom ski, taught himself how to use it, then taught his friends. He liked to tell the story that after a graduation party at Lake Tyler, while wearing a tuxedo, he rolled up his pant legs, skied off the pier into the water on his ski, went around the lake a couple of times and never got his tux wet.
Phil was a marvelous and innovative cook, an avid hunter and fisherman who taught his family that "if you shoot it or catch it, you clean it and eat it." He was an exemplary father to his two boys and actively devoted his time to their activities and upbringing.
He graciously hosted his friends and family for 30 years at his hunting lease near Uvalde, where everyone enjoyed his culinary efforts. Phil loved playing golf and snow skiing, but his life's passion was flying and he continued to fly until he was 80 years old. The many, many family trips to exciting places will be remembered and cherished by his family and it was with great sorrow that he sold his last airplane last year. The end of an era.
There was never a dull moment when Phil was around because he was always fun, had a marvelous sense of humor (no one could tell a joke like Phil) and had a zest for life. He had impeccable manners and was truly a gentleman. He never complained or lost hope during his 3 1/2-year battle with cancer and was optimistic to the end. He was looking forward to the birth of another grandchild due in June.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Gordon K. and Loraine Roberts, and his grandson, Benjamin V. McGee. He is survived by his wife, Carrie Anna Roberts, Emerald Bay, Bullard; son, Gordon H. Roberts and wife Kelley, Fort Worth; son, Andrew B. McGee and wife, Elizabeth, New York, N.Y.; cousins, Barbara Pinkston, Buddy Nolley, Suzanne Mayfield; and his best buddy, Frankie, who was his constant companion at home.
The family will gather together Thursday morning for a private burial, asking God's blessing as they lay Phil to rest in Rose Hill Cemetery in Tyler next to his parents. A memorial service to honor Phil's life will be held on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Stewart Family Funeral Home at 1:30 p.m. with Dr. Darryle Dunks officiating.
A special thank-you goes out to Joyce Storey and Yolanda Veezey for the loving care they provided.
Memorials may be made and appreciated for The Hospice of East Texas Foundation, 4111 University Blvd., Tyler, 75701; or The Emerald Bay Community Church, 160 La Salle Drive, Bullard, 75757.
Stewart Family Funeral Home
7525 Old Jacksonville Highway Tyler, TX 75703
Published in Tyler Morning Telegraph on Apr. 23, 2014