In loving memory of Roberta Elaine Newsome,
“August 5th, 1939 – October 21st, 2023”
A long-time resident of Oak Ridge, TN, since 1971, Roberta Newsome passed peacefully surrounded by love-ones last Saturday evening. Roberta Newsome was a beloved mother, sister, aunt, talented local artist, amazing gardener, rescuer of Boston Terriers, huge fan of “Old Time” and Appalachian style traditional music and outdoorsy nature lover. She introduced herself by the name she preferred, which was “Bert.” The Smoky Mountains were her refuge, and up to her last days she still spent time visiting those beautiful foothills with her sisters, Rachel Lanier and Brenda Parsons, as well as the rest of her family.
After retiring from Boeing Aeronautical over twenty years ago, Roberta focused on her art. As a late blooming artist, she won first place in her very first Art Contest in Knoxville, TN, with one of her still-life paintings. For years, Roberta facilitated painting classes in her home studio. She also spent a lot of time working at the Appalachian Museum in Norris, TN. Everyone who played music at the Appalachian Museum Festivals fell in love with her as an adorable surrogate “Mom” who welcomed and cared for all the musical artists backstage. Roberta never met a stranger. She enjoyed getting to know everyone. And not to be forgotten, Roberta adored her trio of wild little pampered dogs, Opie, Bucky and Chipper.
Born in Phenix City, AL, in 1939, Roberta Newsome was raised in her early years in an idyllic rural setting, full of countless close-knit family members. Her father, James Bernice Newsome, was a machinist for the National Labs in Oak Ridge, TN. Her family was also steeped in an Alabama country farm life. She spoke of cherished childhood memories often. Roberta was very close to her mother, Della Lee Newsome, who was the greatest influence in her life, giving her loving gentle acceptance and wisdom for the years ahead.
Roberta’s large extended family in Alabama all lived within a few blocks of each other with little farmhouses and gardens everywhere. They grew most of their own food and raised their own livestock in a simple rural paradise. Her neighborhood hadred dirt roads, honeysuckle vines and primroses on rustic fences, old barns and fields of planted crops. And one could always hear the train whistle blow and rattle down the tracks off in the distance back yonder past the woods. If you took a walk down the country lane where she grew up, at the end of the road, one direction took you to the little country store and the other went up the hill to the family church. In Phenix City, there were two pass times: church and baseball. Either everyone was at the church, or they were out on the field playing baseball, and her family had several pros. Roberta always caught all the Braves baseball games for that reason.
The type of family Roberta and her sisters had growing up may not exist in America anymore. Something beautiful from a past in the deep South. Each Sunday after church, her Aunt Eula and Aunt Beth put out a “Southern feast” in the Riddle home that was incomparable to anything one could experience now. The old Bakelite aluminum dinner table would not have an inch of the tabletop to spare. Every single Sunday it was overflowing with home-cooked from-scratch dishes straight from the farm, with cast iron skillet fried chicken, a big pot of beans with fatback, fresh snapped green beans, butter beans, turnip greens, cornbread, a big tub of fresh melting butter, rhubarb pie, pecan pie, homemade biscuits and thick smooth gravy, roasted sliced ham, a side of bacon, creamed corn from the garden, fried cheddar cheese, and of course, gallons of sweet tea! No wonder she loved her homeplace so much. Her family meant so much to her that Roberta will have her ashes interred next to her beloved Mother, Della Lee Newsome, in the Phenix City, AL family cemetery. That is what she wanted.
For anyone who knew Roberta Newsome, they would know she loved people. And she tried to help anyone she could. Although she was petite and always impeccably put together, Roberta was tough as they came and stubborn to a fault. She was known to pick up a chainsaw and cut down a fallen tree without the need for anyone’s assistance, so don’t stand in her way! Roberta Newsome was an independent woman and free spirit. She was her own “handyman” and could fix just about anything herself in her own home. Not too long ago, there was a time she took a sledgehammer to a kitchen wall in her old homeplace that she had inherited from her late father, and she turned that house into a showplace herself. Her interior decorating skills were also amazing. Roberta Newsome will be sorely missed. She was a joy to behold in the Oak Ridge area, with her instant genuine smile, warmth and welcoming countenance.
Roberta Newsome is preceded in death by her parents, James Bernice and Della Lee Newsome, Brother-in-law, Sidney Lanier; and Brother-in-law, Joe Parsons, as well as her beloved ex-mother-in-law, Bonnie Marie Stansberry. Much of Roberta Newsome’s large extended family hailing from Phenix City have gone on long ago. Some of her precious closest favorites included her Uncle Horace and Aunt Eula Riddle, who practically raised her and her sisters as “young’uns,” along with her Aunt Beth Hand. Aunt Beth not only smoked a pipe and dipped snuff, but she also cracked hilarious jokes and had the wit and manner of a female Mark Twain. The stories they all told with thick southern drawls on the front porch snapping beans were enchanting and often ended up with many hardy belly laughs.
Roberta is finally enjoying a vast enthusiastic welcoming as she has gone on home to heaven. So much love has been waiting for her there all these many years.
Roberta Newsome is survived by her two sisters, three children, three grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Her sisters are Rachel Lanier (Sidney) and Brenda Parson (Joe). Roberta’s children and grandchildren are, her son, William “Bill” (Debra) Stansberry with their daughters, Samantha Oliver and Maia Bailey; her daughter, Pamela Stansberry; and her son, Dale Stansberry and his son, Eliott “Eli” Stansberry.
This little lovely, charming lady to whom we say goodbye was a force to be reckoned with. Her family will miss her immensely. May her departure into the bliss beyond be met with such tremendous love and elation. May all her loved ones left behind on earth be surrounded by the grace of God’s loving comfort.
If you are family or a friend, please feel welcome to join Roberta Newsome’s Memorial Celebration this Wednesday, October 25th, 2023, at Visitation gathering 2 pm, and Funeral Service at 3 pm, Mott-McKamey Funeral Home, Oak Ridge, TN, 37830.