Eastside man on Seahawks staff

Some of the signed helmets and other Seahawks memorabilia displayed by Joe Roberts. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

 

By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

Joe Roberts, far right, is among Eastmont High School senior athletes presented awards in May of 1960. Also shown are Earl Shaw, Lou Boni and George Stewart, at left, and Jim Lyon and Dick Doland. (Provided photo/Wenatchee World archives)

As a young boy with a troubled childhood, Joe Roberts could never have imagined he would someday own a motorcycle dealership, race cars and build street rods, or work for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

When Roberts was 10 years old, he and his eight siblings were dropped off at an orphanage in Toppenish when his mother passed away from cancer and his grieving father could not raise them.

After three days at the orphanage, the siblings were separated and sent to various foster homes across the state. Joe progressed through several foster homes before moving to Wenatchee at age 13.

The home Roberts lived in while attending Eastmont High School burned to the ground during his junior year, leaving him homeless and without foster parents.

A friend invited Roberts to come home with him for a few days. This family took Joe in, treated him like one of their sons, and became his final foster family. He is still close with these two foster brothers.

Roberts reconnected with his original siblings as an adult. All of his blood brothers have passed away but he is in contact with several sisters, one of whom also lives in East Wenatchee.

Roberts always loved sports. He participated in football, track and baseball, but football was his favorite.

A Wenatchee World archive photo published in the June 8 issue of Empire Press caught his attention. Shown were several coaches presenting athletic awards to Roberts and two other Eastmont High School seniors in May of 1960. Roberts received awards for athlete of the year and football player of the year.

“I am the only person in that photo still living,” Roberts said.

Joe Roberts with the 1933 Ford Roadster he restored. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

After high school graduation, Roberts trained and worked as a meat cutter for the next 12 years. During that time, he married his high school sweetheart and the couple had two children, Mike and Lauri.

After Lauri graduated from Eastmont, she moved to Seattle and got a job with the Seattle Seahawks. She started in ticketing and worked her way up to community outreach and public relations. Her duties included putting on the pregame ceremonies for Seahawk home games.

Lauri called her dad one Saturday and asked, “How would you like to help downfield at the games?”

“I had season tickets and already attended home games so it was a no brainer,” he added. “I started helping at the next game and have been there for 27 years. In those days we had hard line communication. I took care of the cords that connected the coaches and people upstairs. Now, of course, everything is wireless. When things changed over, I started throwing in the kicking ball during the games. If you see a guy on the sidelines with a big orange ‘K’ on his vest, it could be me.”

Around 1972, Roberts purchased a motorcycle dealership in Wenatchee. In addition to selling the Harley, Kawasaki and Suzuki cycles, he also carried all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. Roberts owned the business for the next 40 years.

Another football connection happened during those years. “The Harley-Davidson people contacted me to ask if I would be interested in furnishing Mike Holmgren’s Green Bay coaching staff with Harleys to ride when they traveled from the airport to Seattle games,” Roberts said. “Of course I was ready and willing to do so, since I was there helping anyway. I even took those coaches on a 10-day motorcycle camping trip one summer. I was well-acquainted with Holmgren by the time he came to coach the Hawks.”

“Here is an interesting bit of football trivia,” Roberts added. “The Green Bay Packers are the only NFL team owned by their city instead of by an individual owner.” (The Packers have been a publicly owned, nonprofit corporation since 1923.)

After selling his business and “retiring,” Roberts now works with his son at Robert’s Construction as the “dirt man” who operates the backhoe, excavator and other heavy equipment.

“I really love getting up and going to work in the morning,” Roberts said. He comes home between noon and 3 p.m., freeing the rest of his day to work on his street rods in the huge shop behind his home.

The shop houses 13 street rods in various stages of restoration. His pride and joy is a 1933 Ford Roadster.

“I rode around yesterday in my 1933 Ford Roadster,” he said, pointing the beautifully restored rod. He also pointed out a 1957 Chevy pickup that he and his son had restored together for Mike’s 16th birthday.

“My son and I used to race cars too,” Roberts added. “Some of the Seahawk players went to the race tracks to watch us at times.”

Several shiny motorcycles built by Roberts are displayed in his shop as well, and Seahawks memorabilia can be seen everywhere, reminding one where his heart is.

A large “man cave” houses a display case filled with footballs and helmets signed by coaches and players. Antiques and memorabilia from his car racing days fill the walls and shelves.

“I have enjoyed an interesting and fun life,” Roberts concluded. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

 

Next week: Joe Roberts talks about life as a Seahawk Kicking Ball Boy.