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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Fruita local Ellen Roberts celebrates 100 years!

Sep 27, 2021 02:29PM ● By Kevin Van Gundy
"100 years" in gold font, with picture of Ellen Roberts from a Grand Junction BeaconFest

Long live Ellen Roberts

When Ellen Roberts was born in 1921, she had a one-in-a-hundred chance of living to 100. Had she been born in 2011, those odds would have dramatically improved to one-in-three. Turning 100 will be the norm at some point in the relatively near future.

But aging well is about more than surviving—it’s about thriving. Fortunately, Roberts has done both. I’ve known Roberts since I started at the BEACON in 2008. She’s certainly not shy, as she has been written about and pictured in our magazine many times. But that wasn’t always the case. 

“When I was younger, I was too bashful to go anywhere. But then I learned about all these places you could go to dance and things to do and now I’m not bashful anymore,” Roberts said. “I’m a good entertainer and keep everybody laughing.”


She and her constant companion, Mary Lee Bowen, have entertained at many BeaconFests and other occasions as the hilarious Patsy Cline Wannabes. Upon attending a “professional” Patsy Cline impersonator show, Roberts told Bowen that their act was far better.

Bowen attributes much to her friendship with Roberts.

“She’s an inspiration to so many people. I was quiet and didn’t do anything until I met Ellen,” Bowen said.

More than an entertainer, Roberts keeps busy by involving herself in the local community. For her birthday this year, the esteemed Fruita City Council declared her birthdate—August 21—as “Ellen V. Roberts Day”

I had dinner with her one evening when she was raising money to help fund the Fruita Senior Center years ago. Surprisingly, selling spaghetti dinners at $12 a pop wasn’t how they raised most of their funds. Instead, they did it the old-fashioned way by collecting and recycling one aluminum can at a time over a period of 10 years. My grandfather, Earl VanGundy, would have been happy to hear that.

One summer, my wife, Lauren, and I competed against Roberts and Bowen in the local senior games sponsored by Grand Junction Parks and Recreation. We gave it our best in the cornhole competition, but we didn’t stand a chance. 

My favorite connection to Roberts is that the she and my grandma, Wanda (Nixon) Bird, were best friends growing up in Fruita. 

“Your grandmother and I used to go to her dad’s blacksmith shop every day after school to get money to buy penny candy,” Roberts fondly reminisced. 

Unfortunately, my grandmother was one of the 99 percent who didn’t make it to 100. But, I sure have enjoyed getting to know Roberts in her absence.

Thank you, Ellen, for being such a help to our community, an inspiration to others and a friend to me. Long live Ellen Roberts!

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