The Roberts—a Legacy of Love, Tall (but truthful) Tales, and Better Tomorrows

The Roberts—a Legacy of Love, Tall (but truthful) Tales, and Better Tomorrows

As the town historian, Douglas Roberts seemed to hold the memories of an entire community in his heart. A resident of Riverton for more than 80 years, he enjoyed regaling townspeople and visitors with tall (but truthful) tales about the town and its residents from his town historian booth at the Riverton Fair—rumors of bootleggers at the Riverton Inn, the lighthouse nestled deep in the woods of Barkhamsted, and from his time in WWII, the top hat that drew the ire of Gen. George S. Patton. Anyone who knew him would tell you, Doug had stories to tell and a great love for his home town of Riverton.

Doug lived in Riverton his entire life, attending the two-room Riverton school house and then a newly built Gilbert School, where he played baseball. At the age of 18, Doug left Riverton to serve in WWII. He served as radar operator for Troop D. Calvalry.

He and Janet, his wife of 47 years, loved animals and the outdoors—growing vegetables, planting flowers in their yard. Janet canned fruits and baked pies. They enjoyed countless hours of volunteering, Janet as a member of the Riverton Volunteer Fire Ladies Auxiliary, and Doug as a charter member of the Barkhamsted Historical Society, Fire Chief for the Riverton Volunteer Fire Department, and a member of the Riverton American Legion Post #159, and the Barkhamsted Lions Club.

An expert in Hitchcock chairs, Doug established a furniture workshop next to the Hitchock Factory in Barkhamsted. He restored furniture and built antique reproduction tables, chairs and beds, and collected antique items: tools, postcards and photos.

If you stopped by to see Doug in his workshop, he might tell you about the time during his service in WWII when he was rolling through Normandy in one of a line of armored tanks. He popped his head out of the tank hatch wearing a men’s fashion top hat he had found in town instead of his military-issued helmet. He instantly caught the eye of Gen. George S. Patton, who happened to be sitting at an intersection with his driver. Doug quickly tossed the top hat, but Gen. Patton chased him down and gave him a talking-to.

He might tell you about the love story between a young Barkhamsted lady and her beau, a Native American. When the young lady’s father refused to let her marry, the two ran off together. They set up a homestead deep in the woods of Riverton, where her father would not find them. Over the decades their family and their children’s families settled close by. The surrounding areas became more populated and eventually a stagecoach route from Albany to Hartford was cut through the rural area.

As the coaches passed by the couples’ cabin in the evening, the warm glow of the hearth brightening the thick dark woods, the driver would exclaim: “There is the Barkhamsted Lighthouse. Five more miles to port” (the next stop).

"Doug never met anybody he didn’t like,” said Dave Roberts, his nephew. “He would talk to everybody whether he knew them or not, and Janet was a wonderful person, who always had a smile for everyone.”

Janet passed away in 2012. Doug followed her in 2022, but not before ensuring that his home town of Riverton would continue to be a place where local history is celebrated and education is within reach for future generations.

Through his estate planning, Doug established the Northwest CT Community Foundation Douglas and Janet Roberts Fund. The fund supports the Barkhamsted Historical Society, educational enrichment for Barkhamsted residents, and regional nonprofit programming that benefits the residents of Barkhamsted.

“Doug and Janet lived a good, but a very frugal life,” said Dave. “Establishing a fund with the Northwest CT Community Foundation was an opportunity to give back to the community that meant so much to them.”

Recent Grants from the Northwest CT Community Foundation Douglas and Janet Roberts Fund

Town of Barkhamsted in support of the installation of an automatic door for the Barkhamsted Senior Center
First Congregational Church of Barkhamsted in support of repairing and reopening the basement-level community meeting hall for public use
Barkhamsted Historical Society in support of roof repairs for Squire's Tavern, a colonial-era building that serves as a museum and historical society headquarters


Contact your Community Foundation staff at: (860) 626-1245 to discuss your charitable giving options and goals.