Don Roberge

April 8, 1940 – July 31, 2021

Donald Hermas Roberge

Donald Hermas Roberge, formerly of Roseburg, died peacefully in Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 31, 2021 in the arms of his loving wife and partner of 33 years, Kitty Taylor Roberge, after a brief hospitalization for pneumonia. Don was born in Rolette County, North Dakota on April 8, 1940, the first of five children born to Hermas Eli and Agnes (Hogue) Roberge.  Don grew up on the family’s large farm near Belcourt, where he learned the lifelong discipline and rewards of hard work and determination. One of his favorite sayings was “you just have to tuck in your chin and keep going.” Don’s adventurous spirit showed itself early, in his first attempt at sailing at age five, when he made a sailboat with two crossed pieces of wood, a pillowcase and an old steamer trunk. He set out on his maiden voyage across one of the small sloughs on the farm, and thrilled with his success, he dragged his craft to the Big Slough for a longer lasting trip. However, just as he was about to launch, the wind came up, the boat began to tip, and he suddenly realized why it was called the Big Slough. He prudently aborted the journey, but the thrill of sailing lasted his whole life.

He attended Rolla High School in Rolla, North Dakota, graduating in 1958. His nickname is school was “Cro-bar,” derived from the North Dakotan pronunciation of Roberge as “RO-barge.” While in high school he contributed a regular column to the student newspaper, the Chieftain, titled “Cro’s Corner,” where he wrote of his love of nature and outdoor activities. During his teen years he ran a trapline, earning spending money by selling the furs he obtained. Don was a voracious reader and student of early American history, and was proud to descend from the Roberge family who established their lineage in North America by emigrating to Quebec in the early 1600s. After High School Don attended the University of ND at Grand Forks. He married his first wife, Beverly Andos, and they had two children, Steven and Laura. His career in newspaper advertising began at the Grand Forks Herald, followed by the Kalispell, Montana, Daily Interlake, the Coos Bay, Oregon, World, and the Roseburg, Oregon, News-Review.

Don was drafted into the Vietnam War and was stationed in Korea, where he met and married his second wife, Kim Chao Chung. Although the marriage didn’t last, Don made Roseburg his home, settling on a small acreage in the Melrose area, where he gardened, raised chickens and turkeys, and established a vineyard and winery. He passionately loved to fish along the Oregon Coast, often with his brothers John and Jerry, first with a dory and later with his sailboat, “Esprit de Mer.” Don was awarded a tongue-in-cheek trophy by the Coos Bay Yacht Club for “trawling for salmon while under sail."

In the 1980s, Don decided on a career change, and after receiving a BS in Fine Arts from the University of Oregon, he opened Roberge Custom Jewelers on Main Street in Roseburg, where he designed special order jewelry. He met his soul mate, Kitty Taylor, in Roseburg in 1988, and they married and moved to Montana in 1995. Don became step-dad to Kitty’s two daughters, Kimberly (Anna) Heiling-Friess, and Angela Heiling.

Don had many interests and talents, and was happiest doing something productive. He became an accomplished vineyardist and winemaker, was a founding member and early president of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, and helped many friends learn the joys of home winemaking. Don was a skilled craftsman and, in the words of his brother Mike, could "make anything out of a rock, two sticks, and a rubber band." Don became an expert gunsmith specializing in beautifully made and historically accurate reproductions of rifles and pistols of the 1700s. He and Kitty participated in many black powder rendezvous dressed in historical costumes of the French-Canadian voyageur era.

After moving to Montana, they created a small homestead in the Rocky Mountains near Flathead Lake where they enjoyed a simple life, producing their own organic food, handcrafting needed items, and passing along their accumulated knowledge and skills to others.  Don was a real people person who made friends wherever he went. He always seemed to be on the verge of laughter, and loved to entertain at home.

After suffering several strokes, Don was no longer able to do the hard, physical work necessary to maintain their property, and in 2016 they moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be near Kitty's oldest daughter, Kimberly and her children. Kitty cared for him at home through several more illnesses, until a bout of pneumonia le to a hospital stay and his death on July 31st, 2021.

Don was laid to rest with military honors at Ft. Gibson National Cemetery in Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma. He is survived by his wife, Kitty, of Tulsa, Oklahoma; his children from a previous marriage, Steven Roberge of Tustin, California, and Laura Roberge of Murrieta, California; two step-daughters, Kimberly Heiling-Friess of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Angela Heiling of Gig Harbor, Washington; brothers John Roberge of Maple Valley, Washington, Michael Roberge and wife Debra of Grants Pass, Oregon, Jerry Roberge of Forest Grove, Oregon, and sister Lorraine Roberge of Portland, Oregon; numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and step-grandchildren.

No memorial service is scheduled due to Covid concerns; condolences may be sent to the family at 1541 E 60th Place, Tulsa, OK 74105.