Byron P. Roberts, 64, journalist and aid to fellow alcoholics Resident of Bolton Hill died of a stroke Tuesday

January 12, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Byron P. Roberts, an old-school newspaperman who found new life helping fellow alcoholics stay sober, died of a stroke Tuesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Bolton Hill resident was 64 and recently had undergone quadruple heart-bypass surgery.

At the time of his death, he was a copy editor at the Washington Times, where he'd been employed since 1987. In the late 1960s, he was an editor and reporter for the News American and a news writer for WJZ-TV.

Dick Slay, former Washington Star sportswriter and a 40-year friend, said: "He had a flair for writing that readers really enjoyed, and people remembered what he wrote."

Mr. Roberts also was known for his insight and a deft comic touch.

While working for the News American, he met his wife-to-be, Vida Misiunas, also a copy editor on the paper. He proposed on their first date while riding atop an a-rabber's wagon he had flagged down. They were married in 1969, and she survives.

Stylish and popular in the city room, Mr. Roberts was a mentor to new reporters, whom he advised to write tightly, quickly and always with a sense of humor, and never to forget to be empathetic toward those they were interviewing.

One of his more notable escapades included running for mayor in 1983 and throwing off numerous campaign bon mots that were intended to improve the quality of life in Baltimore.

Yet, it was after he joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1975 that he found perhaps his true calling, working with alcoholics. He recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety.

"He was one of the best-liked and effective speakers, who always helped the newcomers," said Jim, a fellow AA member.

"He was able to explain and get them to believe that there was a life after drinking," he said.

Born in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Mass., Mr. Roberts moved with his family to Arlington, Va., in 1940. He was a 1949 graduate of Western High School in Washington and attended American University.

In 1950, he joined United Press International, then during the Korean War served as an explosives expert with the Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1956, he joined the Washington Post, beginning as a copy boy and becoming an award-winning columnist, feature writer and editor in 10 years there.

A memorial service will be held at noon Jan. 20 at SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church, 2801 N. Charles St.

Other survivors include a brother, Hugh S. Roberts of Columbia, S.C.; and two nephews, Byron P. Roberts III of Columbia and Moultrie Roberts of Charleston.

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