Olivia McClure | 9/27/2017 2:40:21 PM
(09/27/17) BATON ROUGE, La. — Huey P. Roberts spent more than 30 years as a 4-H agent mentoring young people and helping them achieve their dreams. Between 1954 and 1988, he shepherded countless children in Union Parish through the livestock show circuit — his way of teaching them life skills while opening their eyes to a world beyond rural northern Louisiana.
So it was fitting that Roberts, known to most as “Sleepy,” have a chance to fulfill a dream of his own when he and his family visited the LSU campus on Sept. 22 and 23. He wanted to see the place where he once attended classes and go to a football game in Tiger Stadium.
Roberts, 86, has dementia. But anyone who has seen his room at the Brookdale assisted living facility knows his love for all things LSU — where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science in 1954 and 1964, respectively — remains strong.
“His room at Brookdale looks like a dorm room,” said Roberts’ daughter, Suzonne Taliaferro, who lives near him in Henderson, Texas. Everything, down to the shower curtain, is LSU-themed.
A memory care specialist at the facility caught on to Roberts’ LSU affinity, Taliaferro said, and submitted his name to Colorado-based nonprofit Wish of a Lifetime.
The organization worked with the LSU AgCenter and College of Agriculture to plan Roberts’ “wish,” which featured tours of the LSU campus and the AgCenter Ben Hur Farm. Other stops on the trip were the LSU Bookstore, the college’s annual Burger Bash and the LSU-Syracuse University football game.
“The outpouring of generosity and kindness that we’ve been shown today is a mirror reflection of Daddy’s character and direct result of his time spent at LSU,” his son, Joey Roberts, said.
Roberts paid his way through school working several jobs, including seating people at football games. He served in the ROTC and was president of the College of Agriculture student body.
During his recent visit to campus, Roberts — clad in an LSU cap and LSU cowboy boots — discovered a black-and-white picture of himself and other members of the 1952 LSU livestock judging team on the wall of Francioni Hall. Relatives accompanying him then pointed out a student in a team photo taken in the late 1960s.
Roberts smiled when they mentioned the young man’s name: Terry Dumas, who raised his first show pig under Roberts’ guidance. Dumas grew up to be a 4-H agent in East Baton Rouge Parish, then the AgCenter 4-H livestock specialist.
In a letter sent with the submission to Wish of a Lifetime, Dumas described Roberts as his “second dad.”
“I would not have been successful in my attempts to be a 4-H agent — like him — without his care, his training and direction that influenced my character traits, ethics, decision-making abilities, leadership skills, desire to succeed, and confidence that I could,” Dumas wrote. “The many hours and days this gentleman spent with me, instilling positive attitudes, responsibility and respect for others has multiplied beyond his expectations into hours and days I have spent with even more youth and adults trying to continue the legacy of learning and excelling and giving that he promoted.”
Roberts was inducted into the Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame in 2008.
“Wish of a Lifetime fosters respect and appreciation for deserving seniors by fulfilling their life-enriching wishes,” said Victoria Loeser, the organization’s marketing and communications manager. She added that those experiences often have a positive effect on both the elderly wish recipients and society’s view of them.
For Roberts, the trip to LSU was a “gift of a lifetime,” his daughter said.
“It’s coming full circle with what he always cherished most: LSU and his time at LSU,” Taliaferro said.
From left, Suzonne Taliaferro, Huey P. “Sleepy” Roberts and Tyler Roberts smile during a tour of Woodin Hall on the LSU campus. Roberts, 86, a retired LSU AgCenter 4-H agent and dedicated LSU fan, was touring the campus as part of a visit organized by Wish of a Lifetime. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter
Joey Roberts, right, points out a photo to his father, Huey P. “Sleepy” Roberts, during a visit to Francioni Hall on the LSU campus on Sept. 22, 2017. Sleepy Roberts, 86, a retired AgCenter 4-H agent and dedicated LSU fan, was touring the campus as part of a visit organized by Wish of a Lifetime. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter
Huey P. “Sleepy” Roberts, 86, holds a copy of a photo of the 1952 LSU livestock judging team, of which he was a member as an LSU student, that he and his family discovered hanging on the wall of Francioni Hall on the LSU campus during a visit on Sept. 22, 2017. He is seen at far left of the back row in the photo. Roberts went on to be an AgCenter 4-H agent for more than 30 years. A dedicated LSU fan, Roberts was touring the campus as part of a visit organized by Wish of a Lifetime. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter
Huey P. “Sleepy” Roberts, a retired LSU AgCenter 4-H agent, center, attends the LSU-Syracuse University football game in Tiger Stadium on Sept. 23, 2017, with grandson Tyler Roberts, left, and son, Joey Roberts, right. Photo provided by Wish of a Lifetime