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Roberta H. Lee

February 2, 1930 October 17, 2022
Roberta H. Lee
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Obituary for Roberta H. Lee

Life Story 


Roberta Elizabeth Hill Lee, wife, mother, grandmother, favorite aunt, school teacher, guidance

counselor, friend, student advocate, respected colleague, sorority sister, board member (of multiple

organizations), mentor, and traveler, of Cheyney, PA, died peacefully at her home on Monday, October

17. She was 92.


As a team with her husband Dr. Reginald S. Lee, who preceded her in death, they attempted to

change health care in West Philadelphia and helped hundreds of students graduate from college

through a variety of organizations and activities, all while working fulltime in the Philadelphia School

System, helping her husband build a successful dental practice, and simultaneously raising six children.

But Bobbie, as her friends called her, at just five feet tall was also a solo power house in her own

right, whether mentoring young students of north Philly one on one for thirty-five years, or taking on

state officials at hearings in Harrisburg as a board member of COBBE. According to all her friends,

coworkers, students and most of her adversaries, who tended to eventually become her friends as well,

"you always knew exactly where Bobbie stood on any issue. Because she would tell you."

Born in Philadelphia in 1930, Roberta grew up on Mulberry Street in Darby, PA where "we never

really knew that we were poor." She was the second of four girls born to Elizabeth S. White and Dennis

Adolphus Hill, her sisters Inez, Norma and Elaine preceding her in death. Graduating from Darby High

School in 1948 she attended the then West Chester State College (now University), initiating with the

Gamma Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 1950, before graduating in 1952. It was while

working summers in college as a waitress at Harris's Restaurant in Atlantic City that she met her future

husband and partner in good deeds, Reginald S. Lee. They married in 1953, and soon thereafter Roberta

was on her way to fulfilling a childhood dream of having six boys when Reginald Jr. was born in

Nashville, Tennessee in 1954. When the new family moved for the young dentist's residency, second

son Geoffrey was born in Delaware in 1956. It was then the young teacher and her dentist husband

settled in West Philadelphia - he in a basement office and she, first as a teacher and then as a guidance

counselor, at Rudolph S. Walton School in North Philadelphia, where she would remain a fixture until

her retirement in 1993, touching the lives of thousands with her positive attitude, dry sense of humor,

and her infectious can do spirit.


In the interim, with the help of her husband, she added four more sons (completing her childhood

wish for six boys), raised and educated all six though college degrees, earned two master's degrees,

served on the boards of numerous organizations including COBBE (Conference on Black Basic Education)

where she advocated on behalf of students in Harrisburg, and her beloved West Virginia State

University Alumni Association, Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter. Introduced to the group by her

alumnus husband she often like to remind fellow members "you people know I'm not really one of you,

right?" They nonetheless accepted, respected and loved her, and she served as the chapter's Recording

Secretary alongside her Treasurer husband for many years. She was also a member, and in many cases

on the board or a committee head, of numerous other organizations including Philadelphia Federation

of Teachers, The Philadelphia Public School Retired Employees Association, NAACP, Charles A. Melton

Community Center, Sankofa Academy Charter School, and the Pennsylvania Association of School

Retirees. Over the course of her career she received many awards and commendations for both her

excellence in counseling and her volunteer work, including the Dr. Ruth W. Hayre Scholarship Service

Award for Services to Students, School and Community, The Glover L. Smiley 110% Award, The School

District of Philadelphia Counseling Service Award, commendations from principals and colleagues over

decades, as well as citations from both the Philadelphia City Council and the Pennsylvania House of

Representatives.


In retirement she continued to mentor young men and women. She became an Alpha Kappa Alpha

Pearl Soror in 2015 with the Omega Omega chapter when she reached 65 years as a member of the

sorority, and remained instrumental in mentoring the young escorts in the Omega Omega Chapter's


Annual Calendar Girl Pageant, and also taught a new generation of knitters how to knit at Sankofa

Academy Charter School in West Chester, PA.

She also enjoyed cruises and bus trips with her husband until his death in 2017. She continued to

watch and root for all her local sorts teams, and rooted for the Steelers as well. She loved cooking and

eating, but loved if anyone else would do the cleaning up. She also looked forward to Thursday's

"hoagie night" which was always accompanied by episodes of Big Bang Theory, her favorite TV show.

She lived her final fifty-five years and moments at her home in Cheyney, lovingly cared for by her six

sons, two grandchildren, and thousands of extended family, friends, and former colleagues, who long

ago all recognized how special she was and remained in touch via phone and email.


According to friends and family, the feeling that Mrs. Lee was an angel on earth was unanimous. She

was honest, considerate, insanely hard working, tough, strong, funny, self-deprecating, and smart as a

whip to the very end. Everyone who crossed paths with her felt the same. A few days prior to her death,

one of those thousands who loved Roberta Lee, upon hearing of her being ill, her friend Kim (who has

long running major health concerns of her own) felt herself being pulled from her bed to write the

following:


"Dearest Bobbie Lee:

One of the deepest regrets I have or ever will have for whatever remains of my life is that I did not

meet you and your husband, get to know you, or become privileged to consider you one of my closest

and most beloved friends until just a few years ago.

I have never had a visit or conversation with you that wasn't full of laughter and wisdom, and that I

didn't come away from feeling like a better person. Often, when I finish interacting with someone, I am

exhausted because I have spent the time giving, giving and giving. With you it has always been just the

opposite; I feel like you recharge my heart and my soul, and as I lie here tonight I find myself selfishly

praying that you will continue to be around to continue to do so. So be strong and trust God to make

the best decision for all of us - your sons and family, your many friends, including Todd and myself, and

most importantly you. I love you, Bobbie Lee."


On behalf of the many who have benefited from the presence of Roberta Lee in our lives, all we can

say is - ditto. What she said.


Under a scarlet red sky that was above only her house, our beloved Bobbie passed from this earth the

same way she lived - with strength, toughness, humor and grace, and an unending concern for the

welfare of not just her beloved family and friends, but everyone. She made her own decisions, in

accordance with her living will, and her hospice nurse said that she crossed over as peacefully as anyone

she'd ever seen, undoubtedly content with all the lives she touched and made better, both directly and

indirectly.


Roberta Lee is survived by her six sons, Reginald Jr., Geoffrey, Nathaniel, Jonathan, Steven and Edgar,

and two grand children, Ramon and Kelsey. She requested that there be no funeral or memorial service.

She will be interred at Baltimore National Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland next to her husband of sixty-

four years. She asked that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to the West Virginia State University

Alumni Association, Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter Scholarship Fund, PO Box 148, Lawnside, NJ

08045. Or feel free to help any student, anywhere, in achieving their goals in her honor. That is what

she would have wanted.

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