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Preston  James Roberts
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Obituary for Preston James Roberts

Mr. Preston James Roberts, age 60 of Hays, NC, passed away Monday, July 24, 2017 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

A Celebration of Life service will be held 3:00 PM Saturday, July 29th, 2017 at Turtle Island Preserve Outdoor Education Center 2683 Little Laurel Road, Boone, North Carolina 28607.

Mr. Roberts was born July 17, 1957 in Westfield, New Jersey to Eston Eugene and Dorothy James Harrington. He was a retired teacher for the Wilkes County School System and served in the United States Air Force.

Mr, Roberts was preceded in death by his mother. He is survived by his wife; Kathleen McGuire Roberts of the home, three sons; Travis Lee Roberts of Traphill, Joseph James Roberts and wife EmilyAnn of Knoxville, TN, James Preston Roberts and wife Lindsey of Hamptonville, four grandchildren; Tanner Lee Roberts, Maddox James Roberts, Easton Gray Roberts, Linley Somer Roberts, his father; Eston Eugene Roberts of Brevard, NC and four sisters; Jennifer R. Bush of Purlear, Jamie R. Lance and husband Malcolm of Greer, SC, April R. Pearson and husband Scott of Greenville, TN and Lori R. Holden and husband Wesley of Pisgah Forest, NC, two nieces and numerous nephews.

Preston James Roberts, ‘jack of all trades, master of some,’ husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, teacher, outdoorsman, artist, builder, mentor, dancer, elder, friend, and lifelong learner. There will never be enough words to encapsulate all the mastery achieved in his short lifetime. It is hard to imagine a more dedicated and loving husband and father, a more talented and knowledgeable craftsman, a more caring and giving teacher, a humbler and better man.

Preston believed in the power of symbols and story as a way of understanding the world and teaching values. The circle is one such symbol -- a representation of the unity of all things -- and Preston’s love of family, teaching, and the outdoors are as interconnected as the yearly cycles of snow and sun, as the unceasing breath of life and death.

Preston grew up seeking the outdoors. From a young age, he built an awareness of basic natural laws through observation and curiosity. In the woods, Preston said, ‘the rules were the same,’ the same as they had been for thousands of years. These rules were based on the changing seasons and turning days, the fall of rain and acorns, the slow and inevitable growth from and return to soil.

‘If it’s daylight, we’re outside,’ says the message on Preston and Kathleen’s answering machine. It’s a lifestyle he shared with his wife, his sons, and his grandchildren through camping, fishing, gardening, and hunting trips, through horse-and-buggy rides across the country. ‘We don’t hire out,’ (meaning we build it ourselves) Preston said about the family property, and every single building, every home-grown floor board, and every knife in the kitchen tells a story of the time and energy they put into building their lives together.

Preston didn’t always fit in. Growing up on college campuses, he was always younger than his peers. At college, besides his soon-to-be best friend, Eustace, there weren’t other students living in a teepee, let alone raising a family in one. As a public school teacher of twenty-five years, there weren’t many others on staff who preferred bathing in a cold mountain creek to the easy hot water of a shower. It was perhaps this feeling of differentness that allowed Preston to connect with the kids that no one else could reach. Every day at lunch, students were in his classroom, and even those for whom school never worked still to this day invite him over for supper or send an annual letter.

The outsiders were often Preston’s favorites. Growing up with four sisters, Preston said these strong sibling bonds were responsible for his love of teaching young women. Though he had no daughters of his own, many viewed him like a father, and the number of hammers, axes, knives, and other tools he gave to them as gifts encouraged them along the road toward becoming the strong women they are today.

Preston lived for Turtle Island summer camp. Much of his energy and ideas are built into the structures and ceremonies, into the land and air itself. He was a favorite teacher and mentor for all, skilled and knowledgeable, patient and forgiving, at once hard and loving. As a child, he couldn’t afford to attend camp, and the one summer he did, it was because of a scholarship. As an accomplished knife builder, Preston raised scholarship money each year by selling a knife which he had crafted and carried for himself. This gesture made it possible for many children to attend camps who otherwise would not have had the opportunity.

A part of Preston Roberts will live forever in Turtle Island’s mountain valley. His holiday message to campers this year says it best:

"It's cold this morning, the sun is just peeking its head above the mountain. I wonder what it is like at Morning Watch this morning? I wish I was there, this moment, curled in a thick wool blanket, watching the light, birds, and in my minds eye I am there, with you and the others that have carried your stone and placed it in that sacred circle of stones. In my minds eye I can sail through the trees, past the tree-house, classroom, the gazebo and your shoes, over the patch on the barn roof, over the spot we plan to build a traditional carpentry shop, sweeping high into the cold air alongside a raven, looking at the place we love below and wishing for it to continue forever..."

Fly on, Preston, soar high and know we are looking up to you with every rising sun. You’re forever in our hearts and prayers. Much love, indescribable gratitude, and, as always, still learning...

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3:00 PM
Turtle Island Preserve Outdoor Education Center

2683 Little Laurel Road
Boone, NC 28607


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