Librarian, pastor, missionary, artist, writer, wife, mother, grandmother and friend.
Those are just some of the words that describe Edna Radke Roberts, 90, a longtime school librarian, and co-founder and associate pastor of Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Killeen.
Though retired now from the Killeen school district, Roberts stays busy painting, writing and serving as Sunday school secretary, librarian and group leader for New Beginnings Assembly of God in Harker Heights.
“There is no slowing down now,” she said, a youthful smile and spirit belying her age.
Love of God started early
Born in 1922, Edna grew up on a farm in Brandon, a small town 10 miles east of Hillsboro. Her father read the Bible to his family, fostering her lifelong love of God, Roberts said.
The family listened to radio evangelist Albert Ott in their home, and when he came to Hillsboro for a revival from Dallas, the family attended. There, 16-year-old Edna gave her heart to the Lord and received salvation, she said.
Along with a passion for God, Edna also loved education and had a burning desire to go to college. While working for S&H Kress Co. after graduating from high school, she heard about Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie. She applied for admission and was accepted.
While studying at Southwestern, she met fellow student Odell Roberts, who was in college after serving in the military. He didn’t make a very good first impression.
“I didn’t like him at all,” Roberts said. “I was very shy, and he was so persistent in pursuing me.”
Marriage and graduation
He eventually won her heart, and the two married in 1948. After graduating from college in 1950, she with a bachelor’s degree in Christian education, the Robertses became associate pastors in Ennis with M.E. Collins, a dean who mentored the couple at Southwestern.
Later, they assumed their first pastorate in Melrose, N.M., and then made their way back to Texas for a church assignment in Lampasas. After almost five years in Central Texas, the Robertses headed to Manila, Philippines,
“I had been a member of a prayer group in college called Isles of the Sea and now we would be serving there,” Roberts recalled.
During their four years in Manila, the Robertses helped build the Caloocan church. Edna Roberts developed her love for painting in Manila, inspired by fellow missionary Pauline Dunn.
Settle in Killeen
When the Robertses returned from Manila, they settled in Killeen and started Bethel Temple Assembly of God in 1963. The church, originally located on Fort Hood Street and Adams Avenue, had a congregation of just eight people. Over the years, that number grew to 150.
Through the years, Edna never lost her love for education. In the early ’60s, she earned her teaching certificate at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and a master’s degree in library science from East Texas State University. She immediately went to work for Killeen High School and stayed until the new Ellison High School opened in 1978.
“I love a new adventure and was excited to help get the library going,” Edna said.
She worked for the Killeen Independent School District for 26 years.
“She opened Ellison library and had a gracious, gentle knack for working with kids,” said Marvin Rainwater, KISD Career Center executive director. “She recognized the worth of each person. Edna was hard-working and accepted every kid the way they were and worked with them.”
The Robertses resigned from Bethel Temple in 1990, and Edna Roberts left KISD in 1991. The couple moved to Waxahachie, where Edna assumed the librarian position at Southwestern and eventually became director of library services.
In 2001, the Robertses left Waxahachie and returned to Killeen. Dell Roberts died in 2004.
Edna Roberts continues to be a strong presence in the community through her membership in the Retired Teachers Association of Killeen, her work at New Beginnings, and with her family, which now includes 10 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.
Roberts, who is writing her memoirs, said she gains inspiration through her interactions with people.
“I have been helped b y people all of my life,” Edna said. “I love life and interacting with people to learn from them.”
Those who know Roberts say she inspires them.
“Edna has inspired me for over 40 years,” local author Mary Stone said. “I am glad to be called her friend.”
Herald/Sandra Duffy Oliver