Anna Roberts in her pottery studio. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Anna Roberts in her pottery studio. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Smart 55: A woman of many talents

Anna Roberts, 92, has called Williams Lake home since the 1950s

Williams Lake potter, naturalist and conservation champion Anna Roberts celebrated her 92nd birthday on June 22, 2021.

When the Tribune caught up with her the next day she gave a tour of her pottery studio, which was built by her son, Kim, in 1977.

The studio is full of her pottery, and supplies. A stack of bark from trees she uses to make patterns and clay that has been collected from areas in the Cariboo sits close to the door.

From the windows she has a view of the forest and the lake.

There is also a shelf featuring pieces from various instructors she has taken courses with over the years.

She has also taught pottery herself.

“One time I advertised in the paper that I wanted to make pottery with local clay and I got six people answering. I took them around,” she recalled.

While she is doing pottery, she does not get out to gather clay any longer.

Roberts and her late husband, Dr. John Roberts, moved to Williams Lake from Ontario in 1958 after being newly married.

He was a veterinarian originally from Australia where he was born in 1922.

She was from Southern Quebec, growing up on the family farm, and was one of four women in a class of 150 to graduate in 1951 with a bachelor of science, specializing in plant pathology, from McGill University in Montreal.

Diana French in her book, Women of Brave Mettle, noted the Roberts met on a blind date arranged by friends.

Today Roberts lives in the house they built on South Lakeside. Dr. Roberts had his clinic on the property and it was where the couple raised their children Kim, Naomi and Gina.

Read more: CASUAL COUNTRY 2020: John Roberts: A veterinarian’s mark on Cariboo history

Roberts was instrumental in establishing Scout Island as the nature reserve enjoyed by locals today.

In a previous interview about the history of Scout Island, she said in 1966 the town of Williams Lake purchased the land from the Pacific Great Eastern Railway and established a tourist campsite and public beach on the main island and put in the causeway to gain access.

“When the city needed more land for the campsite and planned to fill the adjacent marsh for more parking, I stepped in,” Roberts said during that interview. “When I complained to council they got someone from Victoria to come and have a look to see if the marsh was of any use.”

In a report dated May 26, 1972, R.D. Harris and J.R. Oakey of the Canadian Wildlife Service said the marsh was small but important.

If the marsh was preserved and developed it would provide an opportunity to teach and learn for teachers, naturalists and students, the report stated.

In 2012 Roberts co-authored Stepping into Nature: A Guide to the Williams Lake River Valley with Ordell Steen.

French noted Roberts also had a hand in preserving Boitanio Park and was a member of the town’s recreation commission when the former golf course became a 1971 BC Centennial project.

As her cat followed her out to and from the studio when the Tribune took some photographs, Roberts remarked the cat was hungry.

“We eat our dinner together at 5 o’clock,” she added.

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