By David Peake
Robert H. “Jake” Roak and his wife Elizabeth C. Roak passed away within two days of each other. They lived their lives fully and inspired in the service of others and shared their love of family, country and church with all of us. They just celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. Together they advanced a family legacy and made a huge difference in the lives of their children and grandchildren. They will be missed. Jake was a loving father to Christopher (Amy) Roak, Jennifer (Bruce) Edgerton, and Lisa (Michael) Budd and grandfather of Maddie Roak, Liv Roak, Rob Roak, Brodie Edgerton, Isabel Edgerton, Merrick Edgerton, Maida Budd, Charlie Budd and Patrick Budd.
Robert H. “Jake” Roak
Jake was born in Philadelphia on June 2, 1937, he was the son of the Reverend John C. Roak and Marian S. Roak. He had three siblings who predeceased him, John C. Roak, David B. Roak, and Christina R. Chalfen. His early education was at the Episcopal Academy and the St. Paul’s School in Concord , NH. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Pennsylvania where he was a member of the Delta Phi Fraternity. Subsequently he earned a Master’s degree in German from the University of Colorado.
From 1955 to 1964, he proudly served six years in the Pennsylvania National Guard and two years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps. He was a member of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry. Through the Troop, he was awarded a John Boyer Fellowship to study at the Goethe Institute in Germany where his interest in German language and culture was peaked.
He was a scholar, a teacher, and a coach. He was a committed educator teaching German, coaching lacrosse and ice hockey at the William Penn Charter School and The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT. He read widely, took an interest in a variety of subjects and disciplines, and nurtured the potential of every student. He was granted three Fulbright Teacher Exchange Awards to Germany and Switzerland where he developed a network of friends that were the catalyst for a youth exchange program that exposed his family and students to people from around the world. His mission was to cultivate an understanding of other cultures and the values they hold dear. He taught people to listen, to explore, to compromise.
Jake’s retirement was defined by family, friends and helping those less fortunate than him. His volunteerism was distinguished by compassion, a generous spirit, and a calling to do more. For a time he was a committed full-time volunteer at Project Home; with Betsy he started an after school tutorial program at the Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard; and post Katrina, with the help of friends, raised enough money to buy two house trailers and tow them to New Orleans for use by those recovering from the catastrophe. An active parishioner at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church for almost 50 years, Jake was especially committed to outreach projects dedicated to fighting hunger and homelessness with faith and courage. His efforts included work with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which helps homeless families become eligible for permanent housing and Face to Face, a multi-faceted social service organization in Germantown.
Jake loved time with family and friends and nurtured those relationships. He greatly enjoyed and was loyal to a number of friend groups including The Rabbit, The Marigolds, The Book Boys as well as a regular at Saint Paul School, University of Pennsylvania, St. Elmo and First City Troop alumni events. Jake enjoyed living “life the way it should be “ when in Maine each summer, motoring on his boat, hauling things in his red pick up truck, tinkering in his woodshop, studying family histories, sitting by a crackling fire, rooting for the Phillies, playing Old Timer Hockey at the Wissahickon Skating Club, enjoying time with his grandchildren, and most of all delighting in life, side by side with Betsy. He passed away on December 30, 2019.
Elizabeth C. “Betsy” Roak
Elizabeth C. Roak, known to her friends as Betsy, and Buzzy to her grandchildren, passed away on January 1, 2020. Betsy was born in Philadelphia on July 2, 1942, she was the daughter of Harrison H. Clement and Maida W. Clement. She had two siblings, a brother Harrison H. Clement Jr. and a sister who predeceased her, Maida C. Dent.
Her early education was at the Agnes Irwin School and the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Education from Chestnut Hill College. Subsequently, she earned a Master’s degree with a concentration in Native American Studies from Wesleyan University.
She was loyal, energetic, and always open to adventure especially if it involved Jakie, whom she married in 1963. His pursuit of self-fulfillment became her pursuit and together they chased dreams, across the country and across the pond. She saw the possibilities and opportunities inherent in every situation. She embraced change, experienced different cultures, forged friendships, learned foreign languages, climbed many mountains, and shared new experiences all while proudly raising three children. She was a pillar of strength who supported her husband, her family, and was always there for anyone in need.
Professionally she was a teacher, administrator, and advisor, who built her academic and leadership credentials through extraordinary determination. She began her teaching career at Springside School, then onto St. Barnabas, Germantown. After moving to Connecticut she worked in admissions at the The Hotchkiss School, was the interim head of the Town Hill School, and the head of the middle school at Indian Mountain. As the head of the Rudd Reading Center at the Salisbury School and then as a learning specialist at the Baldwin School she was passionate about helping young struggling readers. Betsy infused everything she did with a soul of abundance, mission, and self-renewal. So rather than retire Betsy opted to ‘re-pot’ herself. Inspired by a friend, she wanted to complete a 550 mile trek on the Camino de Santiago. She dragged Jake into training and then off to Bilboa, Spain. Forty-three days later they arrived at the magnificent cathedral, Santiago de Compostella. Invigorated by their pilgrimage she joined Jake in retirement, enjoying free time with her family and friends, and doing good for others.
Betsy’s abundant energy and diverse interests are reflected in charities she supported. She served on the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church, where she was a parishioner for almost 50 years. She taught at the Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard after school program and volunteered at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. She joined the board of directors of Face to Face, a multi-faceted social service organization in Germantown and The Female Association, which provides monetary relief to needy older women. Most recently she was very committed to successfully resettling refugees from the Republic of Congo.
Betsy loved spending time connecting her extended family and was a bit of a family historian. She talked a lot, telling stories and laughing with her many friend groups including the Forget Me Nots. She never let facts get in the way of a good story but that was her charm. She was busy and often could be found donning a wetsuit to brave Maine’s chilly waters, walking everywhere, biking, playing tennis, taking up golf, reading a good book, quilting, enjoying time with her grandchildren, documenting events on her I-phone 5c and most of all delighting in life, side by side with ‘Lovie’. She passed away on January 1, 2020.