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Alfred John Roberts Jr.


Durango resident Alfred John Roberts Jr. died Thursday, April 25, 2013, at the Valley Inn in Mancos. He was 92.

Mr. Roberts was born to Anna Seivers and Alfred John Roberts Sr. on Jan. 2, 1921, in Los Angeles. He earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in chemical engineering and electrical engineering from the University of Southern California in the late 1940s. While at USC, he played football for the Trojans for one year, then took up boxing because he thought it was less dangerous, his son said.

On Sept. 11, 1949, he married Carol Butler in Los Angeles. She preceded him in death after 45 years of marriage in Sedona, Ariz., in 1994.

“Alfred did secret work during World War II, specializing in ceramic solutions incorporated in rocket nozzles (jet-assisted takeoff), radio chassis and nuclear bombs,” his family said.

Mr. Roberts worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for 40 years, rising through sales and marketing to become general manager of Power Services in the late 1960s and 1970s.

“Al was the person who discovered the matchbook cover blocking the doorway lock in the Watergate Hotel that led to the national Watergate scandal,” his son said. Mr. Roberts was staying at the Watergate while testifying to Congress, and he and a colleague reported the cover to security guard Fred Willis. “He was so excited and called home after the police arrived and they found out what was happening.”

After his retirement, Mr. Roberts worked with Dippelsl Realty for a few years and also ran his own company, Association Administrators.

In 1997, he married Margaret Austin in Sedona.

The Robertses had lived in Durango since 2002.

At various times in his life, Mr. Roberts was at the head or on the board of the American Public Power Association, the American Homebuilders’ Association, the Los Angeles Harbor Association, the Los Angeles Headquarters City Association, The Electric League and Rotary International. He also was a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He served as head of the vestry for St. James Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

Mr. Roberts was a gentleman farmer for many years, owning an avocado ranch in Southern California and keeping bees. He remained passionate about science throughout his life.

Mr. Roberts is survived by his wife of 15 years, Margaret Austin Roberts of Durango; children John Clarke Roberts of Tigard, Ore., and Alice Virginia Roberts Stattman of Cottonwood, Ariz.; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 29, 2013, at Hood Mortuary, 1261 East Third Ave., in Durango.

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