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Leonidas “Leon” H. Roberts

Leonidas H. Roberts, “Leon,” WW II veteran and retired University Professor, died in Gainesville, Florida on August 5, 2015. He was born Feb. 27th, 1921 near the village of Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania to Warren H. and Celeste G. Roberts. During his early college years, Leonidas participated in two government sponsored flight training programs covering primary and aerobatic maneuvers. Dutifully joining the Navy in July, 1941, he had additional, rigorous, military flight instructor training. He was designated Naval Aviator No. 10762 and was assigned duty as a flight instructor. Duty assignments included service as a Flight Instructor in several categories of Navy aircraft as well as patrol-bomber missions involving anti-shipping/anti-sub patrols and air-sea rescues in combat areas. He served with Patrol Bombing Squadron Seventeen (VPB-17) throughout the Western Pacific as a Patrol Plane Commander of the Martin “Mariner,” a twenty nine ton twin-engine flying boat manned by a crew of twelve. Long-range patrols in the Mariner were flown from bases in the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, Ulithi atoll, and the Philippine Islands. One type of mission flown by CDR. Roberts in his Mariner (Squadron No. 13) involved all night (sunset to sunrise) patrol along the China coast at an altitude of only 300 feet. One Squadron MARINER met disaster from enemy destroyer fire on a similar mission. For his war-time service, he received many campaign medals and awards including The Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal. A post war CO of Gainesville’s Naval Reserve Research Company, 6-4, he retired with the rank of Commander, USNR (Ret.). Post war academic life included degrees from Waynesburg College, West Virginia University, and the University of Florida—all with mathematics emphasis. Dr. Roberts joined the University of Florida faculty in1949 as an instructor in The Comprehensive Physical Sciences, a position with flexibility for concurrent participation in other academic disciplines. At the time of scarce or non-existent facilities, he co-initiated campus star parties utilizing his home built portable Newtonian telescope. Further involvement lead to the teaching of astronomy courses. Other activities over the years included significant contributions to physical science texts and syllabi, teaching mathematics through calculus and differential equations. With the eventual establishment of the University’s department of astronomy and his simultaneous appointment as a joint faculty member therein, Dr. Roberts acquired a very diverse teaching agenda over the years with options from physical science and astronomy courses, including celestial navigation, observatory sessions, and planetarium lectures. In the early days of radio astronomy, Dr. Roberts played a small but unique role in its local research by carrying a signal emitter in his personal aircraft and flying a specified track over the ground for calibrating the antenna used in studies of Jupiter’s radio emissions. His personal aircraft was also used in scouting for observatory sites and many other utility purposes. Capitalizing on his extensive military flight instructing experience, CDR Roberts continued this activity well into civilian life by providing flight instruction to special friends. Impending health problems terminated his aviation involvement at age 65. After 40 years of service to the University of Florida, he retired as Professor Emeritus of Physical Sciences and Astronomy. Dr. Roberts took much pride in his wife’s contributions to the Gainesville community as a pianist and a music teacher. On a different level,-during his more senior years, he found great pleasure in the challenge and fun of Barbershop harmony. Immediate survivors include a son, David H. Roberts, granddaughter Paige Brownlee Baker, and his sister, Virginia Glidden of Greene County, Pennsylvania. He was predeceased by his loving wife of 70 years, Mary Fabisinski Roberts, daughter, Claudia Leslie Roberts-Baker. Mr. Roberts was a long time member of the BarberGator chorus; a founding member of Decrepit Birdmen; and a 65 year member of First United Methodist Church, 419 N.E. First Street,Gainesville, FL 32601; to which contributions may be made in lieu of flowers for those who desire. A Celebration of his life will be held on Tuesday August 11 at 11:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church.

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In consideration of COVID-19, as well as the families we are serving, we would like for those of you whose immune systems are compromised please stay home and send the family a condolence card. We may also be forced to postpone services if this continues or worsens. Our profession as funeral directors is not only focused on serving families, but also protecting the families and the community at-large. Thank you and please take care!