September 2, 2014

Roberta Kirby: 1924 – 2012

 

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER

Roberta Kirby: 1924 – 2012

Roberta Kirby shows up in style at the 2008 Senior Holiday Party hosted by the Topanga Community Club.

In the wee hours of the morning on November 4, 2012, Roberta Kirby succumbed to complications of Parkinson’s disease.

“Surrounded by family and friends, the end was a peaceful and a glorious celebration of her life as the Lord called her home,” said friend Ellie Carroll.

A woman of great faith, Roberta was a long-time member of Topanga Christian Fellowship Church and The Church in Los Angeles in North Hills, CA.

Kirby was born May 19, 1924 in Sheridan, MO, which she described as a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere. She lived with her family on a soybean farm with horses and cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. One of five children, she was the middle child.

She left Sheridan for the first time after high school during World War II and went to Kansas City, where she worked as a “Rosie the Riveter” building B25 bombers.

At 19, she and her sister moved to California and lived with their great aunt in Santa Monica, which was then a big defense area. She went to Santa Monica College for two years and then to CSUN.

From there, she joined the World Council of Churches, a precursor to the Peace Corps, and sailed on her first ship, a Seven Seas ship. During that time, she worked in post-war Germany and North Africa.

Upon her return, while on holiday in Yosemite, Dan Kirby walked up to her and asked her to dance. They married in Las Vegas in October 1961 and moved to a little bachelor apartment in Topanga.

One former student, Charles Wiseman, recalled, “She was my favorite substitute [teacher]. If she walked into your class at the beginning of a school day with her hat on, you knew it was going to be a great day!”

“Like a lot of Topangans, I was so blessed to have Roberta in my life,” said Topanga Messenger photographer Katie Dalsemer. “Whether it was photographing her in one of her colorful, whimsical hats or stopping by on a walk with my dog, I inexplicably, magically, felt better about my place in the world every time I saw her.”

Roberta is survived by Dan Kirby, her husband of 50 years; sisters Betty Bradley of Yorba Linda, CA and Joyce Chambers of Maryville, MO; brother Franklin Dowis of Colorado Springs, CO; and many nieces and nephews.

Plans for a memorial and life celebration are pending and will be announced when a date and place are set.

A profile of Kirby, “Topanga Generations — Roberta Kirby, Multigenerational Teacher,” published in the Messenger, Dec. 18, 2008, can be found online at topangamessenger.com.

Anyone wishing to submit a photo or memory of Roberta is invited to e-mail them to editor@topangamessenger.com.