SANFORD – Throughout her life, if Myra Lillian Sawyer Roberts was awake, she was moving.

Her 1933 yearbook from Wilton Academy noted that her athletic speed was unlike anything ever seen in the history of Franklin County, according to her son, Peter Roberts of Worcester, Mass.

She was named most athletic female when she graduated in 1937 from Sargent College at Boston University, where she majored in physical education and excelled in nine sports, including field hockey, tennis, golf and swimming. Her prowess on the playing field eventually placed her in the BU Sports Hall of Fame.

She later shared her joie de vivre with her husband and their three children, whether swimming at the family’s camp on Square Pond in Acton, or skiing on Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton. She was in her 70s when she decided to go roller-skating for the first time, and was undaunted when she fell and broke a wrist.

“There was no stopping that woman,” said her daughter, Peggy Bannon of Sanford. “She had an active, interesting, wonderful life.”

Mrs. Roberts, who died Tuesday at age 95, was born in Wilton and grew up on Bass Hill with her parents, Earl and Ethel Merrill Sawyer. After college, she taught for a few years at Lasell Junior College in Newton, Mass. During that time she became a standout member of the Boston Field Hockey Association and competed in the National Field Hockey Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio.

“She didn’t know it at the time, but she helped to pave the way for professional women athletes today,” her son said.

In 1946, she married John Roberts, a Sanford lawyer she had met through mutual friends. While raising three children, including Paul Roberts of Berwick, she continued her athletic pursuits.

Each spring, the family would move to their camp in Acton, 10 miles from Sanford, as soon as the weather warmed, her daughter recalled. As long as school was in session, Mrs. Roberts would drive the children into Sanford each day and drop them off at school. She’d play a few hours of tennis in the morning and 18 holes of golf in the afternoon before picking up the kids and returning to camp.

When school got out, she led them in activities around camp, especially swimming and water skiing.

“She could swim like no one else I’ve ever seen,” her daughter said. “She just glided along like a dolphin. She pushed us to be active. All of us kids were into sports. Water skiing was my favorite, but I played field hockey, softball and basketball, too.”

The family would stay at camp into autumn, returning to their home in Sanford only when it was too cold to keep the camp warm with a wood stove or draw water from the pond.

On Saturdays each winter, Mrs. Roberts would make a bunch of sandwiches, then she and her husband would pack the kids into their station wagon and they’d head up to Pleasant Mountain. They’d ski until dark, drive home and then do it all over again on Sunday.

Mrs. Roberts enjoyed traveling and socializing with her husband, who was a state senator and probate judge. Throughout their marriage they traveled widely across the United States, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. They often hosted cookouts with neighbors at camp.

She enjoyed holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, and insisted that family members celebrate together, including her four grandchildren. She was the backbone of the family, offering dependable support and demonstrating a quiet fortitude that was an inspiration to many.

“I never saw her moody, down or crying,” her daughter said. “She rarely even caught a cold. She was always high on life.”

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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