Roberts, 80, officially retired on Oct. 27 after working since she graduated from Villa Rica High School in 1950, spending the last 40 years running her own tax preparation and bookkeeping service and maintaining her insurance and real estate licenses.
This is the third time she’s said she’s retiring, and due to health issues she says this one will stick even if she does sneak into the office once a week.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. That’s why I continued to do it,” she said. “I’ve been doing taxes for more than 60 years. Even when I had other jobs, I always sort of did that on the side.”
Roberts was a trendsetter when she graduated high school, immediately joining the work force full time by keeping the books at Camp Cap Co. in Villa Rica when other women were more interested in staying home to raise a family. She again blazed a trail when she opened the first property and liability insurance agency in Villa Rica owned by a woman in 1973.
She wasn’t trying to be a pioneer for women’s rights or anything so noble. She was simply looking out for her family’s future.
“We grew up on the other side of the tracks,” she said. “We didn’t do without anything, but we grew up very modestly and I was hell-bound and determined that my children weren’t going to have to do some of the things that I did and have nothing but hand-me-downs.
“I was trying to make a future for my family. I feel like all of my missions have been accomplished.”
Though she was a career woman, Roberts still managed to raise a family and remains close with her two children and their families, which includes four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Roberts said she always showed an affinity for math in school and went to what was then Carroll Technical Institute and took tax courses. Later, she went to West Georgia College and the University of Georgia for her insurance certification and followed that by returning to West Georgia College to earn her real estate license.
“I never actually enrolled as a full-time student, but I kept going to school to get those certifications,” she said. “That’s the only way I could make a living.”
For 13 years Roberts worked at Lockheed doing audits and purchasing before being laid off in 1973, which led her to go to work at a local insurance office that ended up going bankrupt.
“He went bankrupt and owed me salary so I took over the business for the salary he owed me,” she said. “I did taxes, insurance and real estate there until 1986, and then I sold the insurance part of it because I was going to retire then. I was just kind of burned out.”
Though she planned to retire the first time more than 25 years ago, the pull to continue was too much.
“I just wanted to keep working,” she said. “You get addicted to some things you love to do. I mainly just wanted to get out of the insurance business because that wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but it supplemented my income all those years.”
Roberts has been an active community volunteer most of her professional life by reading to school children on a regular basis, working with senior citizens, helping out veterans organizations and working on other charity campaigns. She has received several accolades and awards for her volunteer efforts over the years, including the city’s volunteer of the year award in 2009.
Roberts decided she was going to retire for a second time in 2006 and sold half her business to fellow agent Pat Roberts (no relation), but still couldn’t bring herself to stay home.
“What I do and what I say I’m going to do sometimes changes,” she said.
This time, she plans to stay somewhat retired, though she will probably never fully retire.
Roberts’ granddaughter, Haley Redding, will take over her grandmother’s tax clients, but Roberts has a few she plans to keep even in retirement.
“I’ve got some people who just want me to do their taxes because they’re just hard-shelled people who are about as old as I am and think nobody else can do them,” she said. “I’ve done four generations for a lot of my clients. But, I think I’m leaving things in good hands with Haley taking over.”
In retirement, Roberts plans to do a lot of fishing and enjoy her family.
She does leave with parting advice for those looking to stay in a career very long.
“Find something you like and do it,” she said.
It’s worked for her.