Former newspaper publisher rebuilds out of the ashes

Surrounded by friends and family under the shade of canopies natural and otherwise, Dale Roberson July 6 proudly outlined his new goal of living past the age of 90.

The announcement elicited smiles and applause from those who came to not only celebrate Roberson’s 82nd trip around the sun at his property near Driftwood, but a new chapter in his life. 

Several months ago, Roberson and the community mourned the loss of Joyce, his wife, in a tragic house fire that wiped out everything he had. Through the help of so many, Roberson June 4 got back on his feet by staying the first night at a newly built home on his property.

Amid everything that’s happened, Roberson lauded the generosity of others who assisted in rebuilding his life, piece by piece.

“The donations people have given me … people have been so good,” Roberson said. “You don’t have any idea of what it’s like until you have a tragedy like this, to see how many of your friends come out of the woodwork.”

A key component in getting Roberson back on his feet the assistance from his children and all generations of his family, who played a vital role in the rebuilding process.

That started when they worked together to purchase the frame of a new home in February; soon after, Roberson and his family began designing it before starting construction.

Shannon Shubert, Roberson’s daughter, said she and her family regularly coordinated schedules to help out as much as they could. For many of them, that meant commuting hundreds of miles to the Driftwood area to lend a hand, usually on weekends.

Roberson and his family also received help from friends and neighbors who provided material and much more to the cause. Tracy Dean, a friend of Roberson’s, donated cabinets, a stove and flooring for the new house. Richard Smith, a general contractor, donated his time to oversee the construction of the new home.

Help has also come from perfect strangers, too. Roberson said a man who lived down the road from him, whom he had never met in his life, wrote him a $100 check after learning what happened. Donations in the form of clothes, food, furniture and more from the neighboring community came Roberson’s way.

“Everyone has contributed financially as well as with sweat. There’s a lot of sweat equity in this place for sure,” Shubert said. “The community has been amazing. We’ve seen a lot of good Samaritans out there.”

Even with help from all sides, Roberson was adamant in playing a role in constructing his new residence. Installation of cabinets, a sliding wooden barn door and even an exterior wall were things Roberson accomplished with the assistance of Smith, a full-time carpenter.

Having done quite a bit of carpentry work in the past, Roberson said he still loves to “drive nails” and get hands-on with projects. Over the course of four months, Roberson, Smith, Schubert and many more children, grandchildren and great-grand children built the home from the ground up.

The experience brought Roberson and his family closer together.

“Every single one of these kids have worked their butts off,” Roberson said. “I couldn’t have put it together without them.”

Seeing her dad return to life on his property, which he’s owned since 1970, offers a happy feeling for Schubert. Often times, she and her family find Roberson sitting peacefully on the back deck of his home.

“He’s happy to be here in his own space, on his own property,” Schubert said.

As far as Roberson’s concerned, he feels as if he’s the luckiest man in the world.

“My kids say I’ve got nine lives. I hope I’m not to nine yet,” Roberson said. “I’ve been real lucky. Real lucky. I hope I keep on being lucky.”

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