The Mystery Roberts Photo

My dad, John Wesley Lowe, enjoyed the simple, carefree island life that Green Turtle Cay, Abaco offered during the 1930s and 1940s.  A meager handful of tattered photos exist today to capture his life during that era.  Dad’s eyes always gleamed in delight as he reminisced of the summer fun memories and the selfless people who comprised this close knit community.

After dad’s passing, I realized that my documentation of his memories was far from adequate. I discovered this Green Turtle life photo below in his collection.  No names detailed on these mystery faces: a handsome teenager dressed in Sunday’s best posed with two island youngsters.  A New Plymouth cottage complete with dormer windows and a wood burning stove provides the historic backdrop.

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The “mystery” photo – Reginald Harold Roberts with niece Estella Lowe and nephew Allan Curry  (Photo from John Wesley Lowe).

My quest for answers began.  I emailed the charming picture to several contacts with Green Turtle Cay roots.  A quick reply from my cousin Estella Curry Lowe (named after Pa Harry’s wife) identified the young teenager as her uncle, Reginald “Reggie” Harold Roberts, born in April 1925 to seaman Harry Roberts (1892-1976) and Estella Louise Lowe (1895-1927).

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Harry Roberts (1892-1976).  Photo courtesy of Estella Lowe and Allan Curry

Reggie’s mother, Estella Louise, is the daughter of Jabez Gilbert Lowe Jr.,  a great-great-grandson of our patriarch Captain Gideon Lowe, Jr.

The amazing twist it that my cousin also identified the two toddlers as her brother Allan Curry and herself!  These siblings soon shared with me Green Turtle Cay memories of their Roberts family heritage.

In January 1927, two years after Reggie’s birth, tragedy struck the home of Harry and Estella Roberts.  Ma Estella lost her life during childbirth.  The baby girl perished as well.  Pa Harry faced the daunting task of rearing their five children, four brothers and one sister, ages 11, 9, 7, 5 and 2.  Hawkins Havlock Lowe and wife Paulena  Lenora Roberts cared for Pa Harry’s five year old daughter, Roselyn.  At the age of 12 years, Roselyn returned to Pa Harry to be his helper at home.

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Lines 5 and 6 record the death of Estella Lowe Roberts and her daughter
thumbnail_IMG_3172Reginald Harold Roberts (passport photo courtesy of Estella Lowe)

Reggie and my Dad were born in 1925.  They hiked up the island hill to school in the mornings and horsed around on the docks in the afternoons.  They both left for the capital city Nassau to seek employment after finishing Green Turtle Cay’s All Age School.

Reggie’s older brother Reuben had already moved to Nassau in 1936.  John Reuben Roberts was born in Green Turtle Cay in 1915 and named after his grandfather John Roberts IV (1864-1908).  Reuben married Lula Alberth ‘Bertha’ Roberts in 1935 at Green Turtle Cay.  They separated and divorced in 1946.

In Nassau, Reuben worked for Stafford Sands, Sr. at City Meat Market where he trained as a meat cutter.  Reuben later recounted that his salary in 1938 was five British pounds per week.  Reuben played a key role in securing my Dad’s employment at City Meat Market in the early 1940s.

In 1943 Reuben and former Green Turtle Cay buddies, brothers Gussie and Jack Roberts, volunteered to serve in World War II.  Reuben joined the U.S. Army on November 11 at the age of 28.  After training in southern England, he was deployed to Easy Red, Normandy.

In 1946 Reuben became an American citizen.  That same year misfortune met his brother Reggie.   Seaman Reggie often ran on a banana boat to South America with Green Turtle Cay native Kenneth Lowe.  On a trip from Nassau to the United States, he was brutally assaulted while at port in Miami.  He received no medical treatment and headed back to Nassau where he died as a result of internal injuries. Reggie was 20 years old and engaged.  Pa Harry was devastated.  Summoned, he went to Nassau to identify Reggie’s body.  Reuben also flew to Nassau to check on his brother.

Cousin Allan shared with me several war stories that Reuben had recounted to him.

One day when my unit prepared to hit the beach, we encountered resistance from the enemy on the shore.  We were located about three to five miles off shore at that time.  The commander of our ship called for the big guns that could reach up to seven miles.

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John Reuben Roberts (1915-2004).  Photo courtesy of Estella Lowe and Allan Curry.

When the ship fired, she rolled from side to side.  It felt like we were about to capsize. After an hour of bombing the shoreline, our troops landed.

To avoid being shelled during the attack, I positioned myself firmly pressed against the ramp of the landing barge.  But when the ramp dropped, I fell in the water.

On another night, the Sergeant arrived at camp to enlist ten volunteers for a mission.  I was selected, but since I was the only barber, the Sergeant needed me to stay behind to cut the hair of several men, including my commanding officer.  The group of men that went on that mission were never heard from again.

I remember a night mission to blow up a bridge once our troops landed.  However, our unit was ambushed on the bridge. Only one other soldier besides myself survived that dreadful attack.

I can’t forget freezing nights of prolonged huddling in fox holes.  Soldiers emerged from the fox holes extremely cramped.  They screamed in pain while Army Medics warmed and stretched out their limbs.

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John Reuben Roberts (1915-2004).  Photo courtesy of Estella Lowe and Allan Curry.

 

After the war Reuben was discharged in Jacksonville, Florida.  He soon headed south to Miami to be with family.  His maternal Uncle Curtis Lowe operated the first barbershop in the Miami International Airport.  Able and ready, Reuben applied his barber skills.  Opposite the barber shop sat Pan American Airlines’ check-in counter.  Here Reuben met and married Marjorie Hanford Pippinger in 1947.   Reuben transitioned back to the food service industry.  He worked as a meat cutter for Winn Dixie and later as a store manager for Food Fair.  In 1969, Reuben and Marjorie moved to Key Largo where he continued his career well into retirement years.  He passed away in 2004.

Allan registered his Uncle Reuben as a World War II veteran in the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.  On this Memorial Day weekend, we pause and honor John Reuben Roberts and all those who have sacrificed at great cost to preserve our freedom.

One mystery photo initiated an amazing journey through this Roberts family!

 

4 thoughts on “The Mystery Roberts Photo

  1. As a great granddaughter of Mary Jane Lowe Saunders who was the daughter of John Lowe and Rebecca Saunders, I have enjoyed these posts immensely. The John Lowe house still stands in GTC today and Mary Jane’s parents and several brothers and sisters of are buried in the New Plymouth cemetery. Captain Gideon Lowe is an “uncle” in my tree so we are cousins for sure. Thank you again for sharing your stories.

  2. Thanks to Evan, Stella, Allan, Phil and others for stories that introduce us to family members of yesterday. I had the privilege of meeting Reuben Roberts and his wife in his last years. A man of stature who lived to serve others.

  3. I would love to know if I am related to the Currys identified. My paternal grandmother was born there, Mary Ann Curry who married Herchel Thompson and moved to Key West. My father was Walter Curry Thompson, born in Key West in 1927. Thanking you in advance for any information you can provide. Barbara Thompson Braddock.

    1. Hi Barbara – Mary Ann Curry’s paternal grandparents are John Curry and Mary Ann Russell. However, there’s much speculation over John Curry’s father which unfortunately is critical to link to my Curry line.

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