Dr. Peter Roberts
Dr. Peter Roberts, Founding & Honorary Chair, 1944-2008
In 2001, Dr. Peter Roberts brought together a group of like-minded individuals dedicated to community service to found The Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Peter believed that a community foundation would build a legacy for our community and make it a better place to live. Peter’s commitment to community service and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are still at the core of CFNL today. We continue to do our best to live up to Peter’s and the rest of the founder’s hopes.
Peter was richly blessed with a wide range of talents and skills. He was a boat builder, who took great pride in building his 45-foot steel-hulled brigantine DOWN NORTH, after first teaching himself welding, carpentry and sail-making. He then sailed her joyfully in northern waters. A skilled painter and printmaker, he took great pleasure in recording the coastal scenery of Newfoundland and Labrador.
He was an enthusiastic golfer, who took pride in his good rounds while being quick to acknowledge that "golf is a very humbling game," as he took the good and the bad shots as they came. He taught himself to play the guitar and was the first to admit that he couldn't sing on key. Although Peter was a gentle man, he was strong-minded and willing to stand up for his opinions and he was a fierce competitor.
He played hockey, and chose to be a goaltender, playing for Prince of Wales College. But his greatest moment came when he and his teammates were the first Newfoundland team to play in an international Peewee All-Star Invitational Tournament, in Goderich, Ontario in 1956. The other highlight of his hockey career came when he was knocked unconscious during a rough-and-ready game in the Roddickton-Englee-Conche-Main Brook league. As he lay on the ice, somebody yelled "go get the doctor." A moment later, they realized that Peter was the only doctor for a hundred miles either side of the rink. He recovered quickly, with no ill effects, and dined out on the story for the rest of his life.
Above all, Peter was a medical doctor, and he was a Newfoundlander. These were his defining passions. He came to medicine the long-way round, notwithstanding the medical traditions of his family – his father, his only uncle and most of their siblings and cousins had become doctors and nurses. He first earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history from the University of New Brunswick, winning high marks for his account of Newfoundland's turbulent mid-19th century politics. Peter became a medical doctor because he wanted to help people. He was drawn to the North and went to work with the International Grenfell Association. He worked in Northern Newfoundland and Labrador for all his professional life. He became the Executive Director of the IGA, and latterly of Grenfell Regional Health Services, and thus responsible for the provision of health care for many thousands of his fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Sir Wilfred Grenfell was the first to hold the position. Peter, the fifth and last to hold it, was the first and only Newfoundlander to do so.
A modest man, he sought neither recognition nor honours. But those who know the Northern Peninsula and Coastal Labrador are quick to give testimony to his achievements, as a doctor, as a leader and as a friend. Peter's father, Dr. Harry Roberts, taught him and his brothers that much was expected from those to whom much was given. Peter honoured this precept, serving as President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and as the founding Chair of the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.