Robersons to celebrate 72nd anniversary Dec. 11
Theodosia residents Elmer and Betty Roberson will celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary on Dec. 11. But Elmer says he's loved Betty much longer than that.
He was 15 when he first saw Betty Louise Koop. To take a square dance lesson, he had traveled to Dietrich, Illinois, about 20 or so miles from his home in Bible Grove.
"During the square dance session I got hot, so I went down during intermission to the drug store," he said.
Betty was the soda fountain girl. "I fell for her right then and there. I should have married her right then because, I tell you, I fell in love," Elmer said Monday, recalling that magical moment.
He didn't see her again, but he certainly didn't forget her. Five years later, he was out on his own, working as a bulldozer operator. One day when he was back in Dietrich, where he'd been hired to do some dozer work, he happened to see Betty coming up the sidewalk on the other side of the street.
"I hustled right over and said hi," he recalled. "I'd been hunting her and hunting her and couldn't find her. But when I saw her, by golly, it didn't take long, and I decided we needed to get married. It didn't take much to talk her into it. I didn't have much money, but I had a lot of love. I convinced her that life would be good with me. She said OK."
That was in September 1948. Elmer and Betty were married less than three months later, on Dec. 11.
They lived for a while in Granite City, Illinois, where Elmer got a job in the Commonwealth Steel plant, and Betty worked as a waitress in a local restaurant. After a brief move to Mortin Grove, northwest of Chicago, they settled back in Bible Grove, where Elmer worked as an equipment repairman in the Norge appliance manufacturing plant. Betty stayed home with their baby daughter, Cathy.
Elmer was drafted in June 1950, and after training for the infantry at Fort Leonard Wood, he shipped out to Korea, where he served with the 13th Combat Engineers in the Army's 7th Division, operating a bulldozer to help build airstrips and heliports in the Punch Bowl area of what is now South Korea. He served 11 months and 27 days and came back as a sergeant.
As a young teenager, he had dropped out of high school after his father was disabled due to an injury. After the war, Elmer and Betty and their growing family lived in Indiana, where Elmer worked in a plant that made parts for the X-15 rocket plane. His name kept coming up for promotion to supervisor, he said, "but it kept getting kicked back because I didn't have a degree."
He earned his GED and then used the GI Bill to get a degree in business from Indiana State University. After a year of teaching high school, he went to work for Marathon Oil Company in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Life was good. He had a good job, and he and Betty were the happy parents of two sons and two daughters. "We always wanted four children, and we did such a good job of parenting we got a bonus!" he said, explaining the arrival of their fifth child, Lori.
In 1981, Elmer was flying in one of the Marathon Oil Company's airplanes to Midland, Texas, from Findlay, Ohio, where he and Betty and their children lived at the time.
"We were flying over this area, and I happened to look out the window and saw these lakes and the beautiful hills," Elmer said. "The fellow sitting across from me in the plane said, 'Let me look out your window.' Then he said, 'You see that shiny little thing down there? That's my Airstream.'"
The co-worker's Airstream travel trailer was parked at Ocie near Nolan's Point on Bull Shoals Lake. He invited Elmer and Betty to come for a visit and stay in the Airstream.
"We came a couple of times. Then we shopped around and found a place," Elmer said.
They settled here permanently a couple of years later, after Elmer's retirement from Marathon Oil.
Their home off P Highway west of Theodosia "has all the things we wanted," he said. "Wonderful people, and it's so lovely. I sit up here on the hill, and you should see the view I have. I can see almost to Gainesville and everything in between."
Their own 34-foot Airstream, parked on the property, now serves as lodging for "guests and overflow," Elmer said.
In their 30-plus years in Ozark County, Betty and Elmer have become active in the community. Elmer has become known for his vibrant singing voice and his tendency to burst into song, sharing patriotic songs and birthday and anniversary greetings at community gatherings. He also sings during Honor Flight departures and arrivals out of the Springfield airport.
He went on an Honor Flight himself not too long ago. It was his first trip to Washington, D.C., and seeing the Korean War Memorial was an experience he'll never forget. "I put my hand on it and cried," he said.
The Robersons don't belong to one church but enjoy "going from here to there to here again," he said. He is a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge.
Elmer's most recent adventure involved 42 daily radiation treatments for prostate cancer in Springfield. He's feeling fine, now he said, and enjoys woodworking and getting outside on his old John Deere backhoe with front loader.
Several members of their family are coming in soon to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and Betty and Elmer's anniversary. "We've all promised to wear masks and do everything we're supposed to do," he said, referring to covid-19 precautions.
Their children are Cathy Clark and husband Michael of Murray, Kentucky; Marc Roberson and wife Denise, and Bruce Roberson, all of Wyoming; and daughters Dana Guerra and Lori Roberson, both of the Springfield area. He and Betty also have 10 grandchildren and five great-grands.
They may celebrate the actual day of their anniversary alone, just the two of them. But Elmer, now 92, plans to make the day special for his sweetheart, who’s 90. "We're going to hold hands, and I'm going to sing to her and tell her all the wonderful things I want to tell her. I have it written down. And I'll tell you what: We're just going to have fun.”