Florence Ruth Greathouse Roberts, a resident of Moscow for fifty years, died at Bishop Place in Pullman on the afternoon of Thursday, July 18, 2019. She will be remembered by those who knew her as a dedicated teacher, a fine poet, a faithful and generous friend, a traveler, a pianist, a singer, an avid reader, a baseball fan, a lifelong Episcopalian, an adoring grandparent, and a lover of all non-human animals (particularly elephants, wolves, bears, ravens, gorillas, zebras, giraffes, and rough collies).
Florence was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, on October 20, 1927. Her parents were Clyde Lafayette Greathouse and Mary Frank Venable. A young attorney, Clyde Greathouse died at the age of 29, just six months after Florence was born, and thus she never knew her father. Three years later, in 1931, her mother married William Dabney Stuart III, with whom she raised four additional children: Beth, Sally, Bill, and Jeb. Because Mr. Stuart was a civil engineer and bridge builder, the family moved frequently, living in many towns across Arkansas and elsewhere in the South.
Florence graduated from high school in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in June 1945. She subsequently attended Hendrix College and the University of Central Arkansas, majoring in English with a minor in French. After completing her college degree, she taught high school English and French in Earle, Arkansas.
In June 1949 Florence married William Carl Hamlin of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. They soon made their home in Columbia, Missouri, where both were enrolled as graduate students at the University of Missouri. Their first son, William Michael Hamlin, was born in Columbia in 1957. In 1963 the family moved to St. Louis, where a second son, Daniel McLendon Hamlin, was born the same year. During this period Florence wrote many book reviews for the city’s principal newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Florence’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1966. A year later she married Lorin Watson Roberts of Stewartsville, Missouri; Roberts was a professor of botany at the University of Idaho. After spending the year of 1967-1968 living in Japan and Italy, the family settled permanently in Moscow. Florence and Lorin’s daughter, Margaret Susan Roberts, was born in 1969.
Upon completing a Master’s degree in English at the University of Idaho in 1973, Florence spent a year working as the publicity director for the Hartung Theater. She then taught freshman composition and introductory literature in the UI English Department for seventeen years, from 1976 until her retirement in 1993. Among her favorite students was Dan O’Brien, the Olympic decathlon champion.
In 1978, Florence and Joyce Farrar co-founded the Humane Society of the Palouse, based in Moscow. Florence served on the Society’s board of directors until 1994. Thereafter, for fifteen years between 1995 and 2010, she volunteered her time on the University of Idaho’s Animal Care and Use Committee. She also worked on the 1996 Idaho Black Bear Initiative and was a staunch supporter of the Washington State University Grizzly Bear Center. With her husband, Florence was a summer camp host at Glacier National Park for seven years from 2002 through 2008. The campgrounds they supervised, Apgar and Avalanche, are well known to many national park visitors in the Northwest and northern Rockies.
Florence studied poetry with Tess Gallagher and other writers who served as visiting professors in the creative writing program at the University of Idaho, and she published poems in numerous journals as well as in Idaho’s Poetry: A Centennial Anthology (1988). In 2012 she collected and republished about forty of her poems in a volume entitled Songs and Gambols. She was a lifelong reader of novels, particularly those of Jane Austen, Murasaki Shikibu, Thomas Hardy, and Leo Tolstoy. She also studied and admired the plays of Shakespeare, Molière, and Chekhov.
Baptized, confirmed, and married in the Episcopal church, Florence was a longstanding communicant at St. Mark’s in Moscow, serving at various times on the vestry, the worship committee, and the altar guild, singing in the choir, and working to establish the “Blessing of the Animals.” She was, in addition, a member of the local Pleiades Club, the Jane Austen Society of North America, the Democratic Party of the United States, and many animal foundations.
During her adulthood Florence lived for extended periods in Japan, Italy, and Australia, and she traveled frequently to England and Canada. She also made three wildlife-viewing trips to Kenya and Tanzania. From the ages of five to 91 she owned and cared for eleven collies, along with multiple cats, fish, and mice. Walking her dog on a summer morning in Glacier Park was Florence’s idea of undiluted happiness.
Florence Roberts was predeceased by her father (1928), her stepfather (1951), her mother (1976), her first husband (2003), her second husband (2017), and her sister, Sally Hudspeth (2018). She is survived by her sister Beth Schichtl, her brothers Bill Stuart and Jeb Stuart, her sons Will Hamlin and Dan Hamlin, her daughter Maggie Jones, her daughters-in-law Theresa Jordan and Vidya Shankar, and her grandchildren Michael Jordan, Christopher Hamlin, Isaac Hamlin, Advika Krishnan, and Lily Jones.
Florence will be remembered during a communion service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Moscow on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. Details regarding a separate, secular commemoration of her life will be announced later.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Florence Ruth Roberts, please visit our floral store.