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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Big Man, Big Heart: The Legacy of William “Moose” Roberts

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, July 17, 2005

David Sacco and his daughter Stephanie rode during a July 17 Moose Crossing motorcycle run.
View Slide Show
North Adams – Throughout his life, William “Moose” Roberts was known as a giver, and those who knew him best are finding ways to maintain generosity in his memory. On July 17, four hallmarks of Roberts’ life – community service, athletics, family, and motorcycles - came together to support a high school scholarship established in his name.

The third yearly Moose Crossing motorcycle run thundered off at 11 a.m. despite a downpour of rain. When the riders returned to the Greylock Community Club on State Road, a family fun day kicked off, and later in the afternoon, a “Law Dogs” vs. “Outlaws” softball game commenced. The good-natured challenge brought numerous Northern Berkshire law enforcement officers and “civilians” to a baseball diamond for lively version of the game. “Law Dog” team members used a siren-equipped bullhorn to sporadically taunt the opposition; “Outlaw” pitcher Patrick Ryan pitched a doughnut over home plate to “Law Dog” batters from time to time. The "Outlaws" proved victorious over the "Law Dogs," winning the game 18-15.


from left,Kayli Larabee, Donna Roberts, Debbie Rock, and Lynn Larabee.
The Sunday event and a July 16 ziti supper held at the Frank R. Stiles American Legion Post 125 raised money for the William “Moose” Roberts Scholarship fund. Established in 2004, the scholarship is awarded to Drury, Hoosac Valley, and Charles H. McCann Technical high school students.

A Driving Force

“Moose” and Donna Roberts had been married for 26 years at the time of his death in January 2004. Donna Roberts talked about her husband and his commitment to youth during the family day event.

“He believed so much in things for kids,” she said. “And he was an unbelievable father. Our children were student athletes and that’s where Bill put so much energy.”

Roberts was deeply involved in youth activities, Donna Roberts said. During the late 1980s, he was the driving force behind resurrecting a concession stand at Kemp Park, and he worked tirelessly as a volunteer in support of organizations such as Little League baseball, Babe Ruth league, high school athletics, and additional youth sports leagues.

Dan Calnan of North Adams participated in the nearly 60-mile ride through parts of Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. He remembered his good friend moments before the motorcycles left the parking lot.

“We used to call him the gentle giant,” Calnan said. “A big man of few words, but when he spoke, people listened. If he was your friend, then you had a true friend.”

Roberts was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and died eight months after battling the illness, Donna Roberts said. He loved the fun and freedom of motorcycle riding and losing the ability to ride was a cruel cut to a kind and generous man, she said.

The first ride honoring Roberts was organized before his death.

“The very first ride was after he was diagnosed,” Donna Roberts said. “He was a motorcycle lover and our friends knew how much

Moose Crossing riders Rick Lesniak and his daughter Heather.
missed the riding.”

Roberts was a graduate of the McCann school machine technology curriculum and worked as a machinist for area companies including Parker Machine and Steinerfilm. McCann recipients of the Roberts scholarship must be enrolled in the machine technology program; the Drury and HVHS scholarship recipients must be involved in athletics.

“We need to keep this [the scholarship] going and we want the Moose Crossing ride to be part of it,” said Donna Roberts. “And we really want to focus on the family day. That was Bill’s strongest point. He was a family man.”

Family day activities included face-painting, a bouncy-bounce for children, a dunking booth, several horseshoe pits, and the softball game. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and beverages were sold and long tables set up inside a pavilion were covered with containers filled with a variety of salads. Home-baked dessert treats rounded out the menu. Special events included a 50/50 raffle and the raffling of a moose-themed quilt made by Donna Roberts. DJ Brian Flagg of Bronco Entertainment provided music.

A Fitting Thing


Thomas Roberts on the dunking booth during a Family Fun Day fundraiser for the William "Moose" Roberts Scholarship fund.
Donna and “Moose” Roberts' son Thomas Roberts spent time on the dunking booth and after being drenched several times, he talked about the scholarship and the fund-raising event.

“It’s great,” he said. “The best thing is that he would have done this for any one of his friends and it’s fitting that they all come together for him.”

The ziti supper raised about $1,600 for the scholarship, he said, and added that about 400 people attended the supper. The meal was prepared by Joe Mazza, the executive chef at a Logan Airport-based Legal Seafood’s restaurant.

Another son, Nicholas Roberts, lives out of the area.

Her husband was a devoted father with a desire to better the community and community members rarely disappointed him, Donna Roberts said.

“Bill was the catalyst for our generation of parents, and I have to say that the people in our community are amazing,” she said. “Most times, when a young person dies, the widow and children go through so many changes and losses. But our friends have stuck by, and that is a testament to the kind of man he was. To have this outpouring from friends and family; there are no words to express my appreciation. I had concerns that my grandchildren wouldn’t know him or the kind of man he was.”

“But I see a day like this and I know that Bill will always be

Dan Calnan and his 2000 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softtail motorcycle.
remembered. His memory will always go on.”

A multi-photograph Moose Crossing/Family Fun Day slideshow will be posted at www.iberkshires.com during the upcoming week.

Susan Bush may be reached at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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