William J. Roberts, a lifelong resident of New Monmouth, passed away on May 21, 2020 at the age of 88. He was born on his family’s farm to the late Thomas S. and Helen (Conover) Roberts. Bill graduated from Leonardo High School in 1949 and earned his Bachelor and Masters of Science degrees in Agricultural Engineering at Rutgers University. Having completed ROTC, he served his country from September 1953 to July 1955 serving in the Far East Command in Japan as a First Lieutenant. He then taught at Cook College, Rutgers University, where he achieved Professor II status, served as a Department Chairman for 23 years, and worked as a Professional Engineer and extension specialist in bioresource engineering. Bill retired from Rutgers in 1999 after a distinguished 41- year career. His work and passion has left an indelible imprint across the globe in the form of the air-inflated, double-layer polyethylene greenhouse, an innovation that revolutionized the greenhouse industry. When asked about this project, Bill would modestly say, “everyone has a good idea once in a while.” The site of the original greenhouse at Rutgers was designated a national agricultural (ASABE) historic landmark in 2004. As a Professor Emeritus at Rutgers, he received the Distinguished Service in Agriculture Award from the New Jersey Farm Bureau, the Agribusiness Heritage Award and the Gold Medallion Award from the New Jersey Agricultural Society. He was named a Fellow for his national professional association, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. These are only a few of the awards for his outstanding contributions to New Jersey and global agriculture.
Throughout his life, Bill was an active member of New Monmouth Baptist Church and proud to be the great-great-grandson of its founding pastor. His devotion to his Lord and Savior was evident to all who knew him. For over 65 years, he served the church in various roles. Along with his wife, Dottie, he was a youth leader for twenty years and led a Wednesday night Bible study for over forty years until his death. Over the years, they also led mission trips to Appalachia and Ecuador and were active members of the church choir. He taught a Sunday School class beginning while in Japan and continuing on until the present as well. He was a deacon for over fifty years, exemplifying servant leadership and mentoring younger church leaders who now serve throughout the world. He will also be remembered specifically for his hugs, jokes, and stories. Bill also served as the faculty advisor for Campus Crusade at Rutgers and on multiple mission boards, including Farms International and Chapin Living Waters. His love, faithfulness, and hospitality impacted countless lives as he strove to follow Christ. The resurrection of Christ was the foundation of all Bill did and the source of hope for his future.
Bill is predeceased by his brother and sister-in-law, John and Elizabeth Roberts. Surviving are his beloved wife of 66 years, Dorothy (Stevens) Roberts, his loving daughter and son-in-law, Deborah Roberts and James Marcantonio, his cherished granddaughter, Jillian Roberts Marcantonio, and his dear brother and sister-in-law, Thomas and Patricia Roberts. Also surviving are his nieces and nephews, Douglas Roberts and his wife Ann, Betty Cardinale and her husband Carl, Jean Herholdt and her husband Dan, and John Roberts and his wife Lori, as well as his cousin, Gertrude Lindemann.
A private service for the family has been held at Fair View Cemetery, where Bill served as a trustee for many years. A public celebration of life will follow at a later date. Memorial donations may be sent in Bill’s memory to New Monmouth Baptist Church, 4 Cherry Tree Farm Road, Middletown, NJ 07748. Checks made out to New Monmouth Baptist Church, memo line: Roberts Memorial Fund.
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