Carrobelle “Pudge” Goodwin Roberts of Port Aransas passed away Saturday, June 6, 2009. It was the 65th anniversary of D-Day and a full moon. She was 83.
Private family services will be held at a later date.
Pudge was born Jan. 1, 1926, in Hillsboro, where she lived until she was 6 years old when her family moved to Waco where she grew up. Rumor has it that she was the first baby born in Texas that year.
After graduation from high school, she went to work at North American Aircraft in Dallas where B-52s were assembled during World War II. Her co-workers nicknamed her “Pudge” because of her diminuitive stature. During that time, Pudge also wrote for a Dallas newspaper, sang with a band, and according to her daughter, Nikki Haley, was “a boogie-woogie bugle girl” who could out-jitterbug anyone, including her husband and, eventually, her daughter.
It was on a trip to Port Aransas for her father’s birthday that she would meet the man who would be her husband for the better part of 65 years. She was 15 and visiting her cousin, Gene Sudduth, when Johnny Roberts happened to stop by for a visit. Three years later, she became his wife.
The pair had talked about marriage before, and as an Air Force trainee, Johnny was delayed on a trip from Yuma, Ariz. to Tampa, Fla., to make up a crew. He took a side-trip to see Pudge in Dallas where they took up the subject again. He hitchhiked to the airport and caught a ride aboard a flight to Tampa that was skippered by women Air Force pilots. Pudge took the bus, and met Johnny in St. Petersburg where they were married on Sept. 10, 1944.
They lived in St. Petersburg while Johnny did duty in Tampa, each night catching a ride home to St. Petersburg. He was sent to Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, Ga., for about a month where they stayed until Johnny was sent to England via a B-17 on which he was a crewmember. He was gone a year, returning on Christmas Eve to meet his daughter, Nikki, already five months old, for the first time.
During Johnny’s absence, Pudge stayed with her family in Waco. Upon his return, they moved to Chicago where he attended the American Institute of Technology for four years. After his graduation, he went to work as a television engineer for Westinghouse, a firm he worked for through 1975 in various cities, including Dallas.
In 1954, the couple moved to Port Aransas where they have made their home since. While still working for Westinghouse, Johnny began venturing into the business world of Port Aransas. Among his ventures were Custard’s Last Stand, a restaurant popular with the beach crowd that is now home to the Venetian Hot Plate, a trailer park, and Beachway Rentals where, among other items, surfboards, television sets (which they delivered to guests at island motels) and motorcycles (which kept two full-time mechanics busy) were available for rent. Johnny was the “idea man,” and Pudge “ran it, managed it and was CEO,” he said. Their office was in the back of Beachway Rentals on Beach Street where La Playa Mexican Grille is now located. That location has housed many other ventures, including one as a lab for scientists from The University of Texas Marine Science Institute who were tracing oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, and the South Jetty newspaper.
Another of the couple’s businesses was one involving the manufacture of custom bikinis and cover-ups. Among seamstresses, besides Pudge, were islanders P.A. Goodwin and Tootie Barnes.
Yet another of their ventures was a Laundromat called the Splash and Dash.
Pudge and Johnny were active in the Port Aransas Civic Club, the forerunner to the many civic organizations that exist today in Port Aransas. Then, the push was for an aquarium that would be built on what was known as Gun Hill, and finding alternatives to the $1 fee – both ways – for riding the ferry.
Pudge had no shortage of passions, and most of them involved nature: Fishing, especially for kingfish and anything good to eat; cloud watching, water, birds, flowers and the outdoors in general. She also enjoyed sewing and cooking.
In the 1950s and early ’60s Johnny, Pudge and Nikki would fish offshore in their 14-foot boat, thinking it was a yacht, it was so big, or so they thought at the time. On one trip when they were fishing for tarpon, Pudge was seated on a barrel, the precursor to insulated ice chests, when Johnny reared back to hook a fish and knocked her overboard. Obviously, she survived, perhaps because of the couple’s belief they were blessed by a loving God.
One of their blessings was their daughter, Nikki, who perhaps unknowingly memorialized her mother in a talk she gave about Mother’s Day. She concluded by talking about her own mother who, she said, while they were often mistaken for sisters, “There is no doubt in my mind who is in charge. Her name is Carrobelle, named after her grandmother, but she is called Pudge. She stands only 4- feet, 10-inches, but her spirit is about 10 feet tall. . . She taught me that I could do anything, if I was willing to work for it. She taught me how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (“and Daddy, we’ve had plenty of sow’s ears to work with,” she said), how to make the best of any situation. She taught me the meaning of family. . . I love her and all she has endured to be my mother.”
Pudge battled cancer three times, and beat it three times, succumbing instead to a massive heart attack.
During her treatment, through her positive attitude and perpetual smile, she gained the love and respect of all who cared for her. They “adopted” her, and because they were so enchanted by her given name, they called her Carrobelle, and cheered each time she returned for a check-up. Each time she checked in and gave her birthdate, the exclamation, “Oh, a New’s Year’s baby,” was recited, to the point that Pudge and Nikki were mouthing it as it was said because they knew it was coming.
The family extends special thanks to Dr. Steve and Laura Nowotny for their tender care and friendship.
Pudge was preceded in death by her parents, James and Willie B. Sudduth Goodwin; three brothers, Louis, Roy and Don Goodwin; her son, David Eben Roberts; and nephew Don E. Goodwin. She is survived by her husband, John D. Roberts of Port Aransas; daughter Niki Haley and husband Randy of Port Aransas; four grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
Private memorial services will be held at a later date.
Expressions of sympathy may be made by memorials to the Port Aransas Relay for Life, (American Cancer Society), P.O. Box 1531, Port Aransas, TX 78373; Port Aransas Boy Scout Troop 29, c/o American Bank, 216 S.