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Public servant Georgan Roberts dies at 71

HIGH SPRINGS – Georgan Roberts was a woman dedicated to the service of others. A multi-term High Springs mayor and city commissioner, she also served as an Alachua County schoolteacher and Newberry Elementary School Principal.

Roberts, 71, died of acute leukemia at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Billye Dowdy, her close friend, received the call from Roberts’ husband, Charlie, at 8 a.m. She knew who she had to tell.

“Number one in her heart, besides her family, was her Sunday School class, The Encouragers,” Dowdy said.

She explained that this is the oldest class at the First Baptist Church of High Springs. The youngest student promoted to the class was 75 years old.

Roberts loved these women dearly, taking care of them like a daughter. She took them to doctors appointments and made sure they could get to church.

Every evening after her class, she would start on the next week’s lesson, finding comforting teachings that were “meaningful to them, at their stage of life, reminding them that God has a purpose for them from cradle to death.”

Charlie explained to Dowdy how she should break the news to the women who were so dear to Roberts’ heart.

“She always used to say, ‘The next class you will be promoted to is heaven,’” Dowdy said.

She and Charlie found all of the women Sunday after services and explained to them that Georgan had been promoted to heaven that morning.

Roberts’ desire to do the best for the most people was a guiding principle in her professional life.

“What Georgan always conveyed and hoped to convey, was her respect for people and her generosity,” Dowdy said.

Linda Clark Gestrin, another friend, said, “You talk about the crème de la crème. Her life was a life of service.”

Dowdy explained that Roberts sought public office to make a difference in her hometown community.

“It was more than a political career for Georgan,” she said. “She did not study in politics, she studied in governing.”

Serving as mayor from 1990 to 1991 and again from 2000 to 2001, Roberts was always accessible to the people. She was in service to her community, coming down hard on private interests, Dowdy said.

“She simply was schooled in the high integrity of governing righteousness,” Dowdy explained.

By the time she stepped down from the commission in 2004, she was a legend in the community.

Gestrin went to her when she decided to run for city commission last year.

“She was awesome,” Gestrin said, “She was an excellent wife, mother, grandmother, Sunday school teacher, educator, principal, city commissioner, friend, mentor, and truly the consummate genteel, southern Christian lady. She will be greatly missed by everyone in this community.”

High Springs Commissioner Eric May was a student at Newberry Elementary School while Roberts was principal.

“It’s the little things,” he said. “She was the voice of the morning announcements. When I first decided to run for city commission, I remember sitting in her living room and just this flood of childhood memories. Here we were, talking about adult things, about politics, and it was the voice of my principal.”

Roberts’ passing was a shock to the community. Dowdy explained that Roberts was always the picture of health.

“It just sped through her body,” Dowdy said. “It was her first time in the hospital.”

Her family and church group had members praying 24 hours a day for Roberts during the four weeks of her illness, reciting the verse, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”

One of Roberts’ daughters told her mother in the hospital that all she wanted was for God to answer their call and heal Roberts.

Roberts shook her finger at her child and said, “If it is God’s will.”

At the request of Mayor Larry Travis, the American flag was flown at half-mast on Monday and Tuesday in front of High Springs City Hall to honor Roberts.

Her viewing was held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of High Springs. The funeral service was held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the church.

Georgan Roberts is survived by her husband, two daughters and three grandchildren.