Tom Roberts

tom roberts

April 5, 1933 ~ March 20, 2024

Born in: Asheville, NC
Resided in: Asheville, NC

From his deck on Elk Mountain overlooking downtown Asheville and the southwestern mountains beyond, Tom Roberts could see down Beaver Dam toward the house where he was born 90 years ago. He could see into the cemetery where his parents and siblings are buried and where he will lie now.

Thomas Ferrell Roberts died at his home on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, with family at his side, 16 days short of his 91st birthday.

Tom’s route through life was not just a straight climb up a nearby mountain. From biking down Town Mountain to catching footballs at Lee Edwards (now Asheville) High, from studying engineering at N.C. State to teaching at a private school in New Jersey, from joining Boeing in Seattle to moving south to Lockheed in Atlanta (and then on to Hewlett-Packard), Tom took a circuitous route back home. Tom worked on the development of the Galaxy C-5A, then the largest plane in the world, at Lockheed. He transitioned to HP, then the world’s medical instrumentation leader, not just a PC and copier company.

But the mountains were calling, always, and he bought a farm in Madison County (and a tractor and some horses and cattle). After that, he scratched his entrepreneurial itch with land development, car dealerships and convenience stores.

However, a linear, chronological telling of a life barely gets at the man. He loved the Atlanta Falcons and was an original season ticket holder. He loved tennis and flight simulators and dogs, especially his shepherd mix Brownie.

He loved spring water, and he piped it himself from way up the mountain down to his house at his farm out Little Sandy Mush before settling for well water when he moved back to town. He loved TV and enthusiastically set up his own satellite dish back when pulling images from orbit was an act of pseudo piracy and required a dish the size of your living room. He loved cars – fixing them and driving them. In retirement he and his wife drove to Alaska and back three times, varying the routes to touch as much of the U.S. and Canada as possible.

He collected pocket knives and watches and the occasional jar of one-dollar coins. He was fascinated by science and pondered black holes and how (or if) the universe worked, and he spent years with a paperback Robert Ludlum or Louis L’Amour in his back pocket or beside him on the front seat of whatever he was driving that week.
He made a mean streak o’lean gravy, killer potato soup and great pimento cheese, and he late-night snacked on broken up cornbread and warm milk, eaten from a tall glass with a spoon.

Tom was preceded in death by Virginia Roberts, the love of his life, his driving companion and his wife of 43 years, who died in January.

He is survived by his children, Robbie Roberts, Ruth Wiley and Jennifer Nicolini, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.


Funeral Home Assisting The Family:

Groce Funeral Home - Patton Ave.
1401 Patton Ave.
Asheville, NC 28806


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  1. Tommy Roberts was a man known briefly in my life as a cousin-in-law. I knew him long enough to know he had beautiful blue eyes and produced 2 children (Ruth and Robby) who inherited his exceptionally intelligent mind and creativity.
    Go Rest High on the Great Mountain, Tom! You’re contributions were many!

  2. Having known Tom and Virginia for many years, it burdens my heart knowing that we have lost such a beautiful couple. Tom was such a positive influence on me and my work ethic. Always a positive influence and glass half full attitude made me try harder to be better. I’ve worked for him at Plaza C mart, his house in Alexander and Elk mountain. His cheery disposition always put me at ease and Virginia’s grounded words of confidence always made me feel like a family member.
    I will truly miss both of them.
    My sincerest condolences to the family and all who morn the loss of Tom and Virginia

  3. I was so sorry to read about your father’s death. He sounds like a wonderful man. It has been a difficult year for all of you.

  4. Tom it was a great pleasure getting to know you, in the short amount of time you taught me alot about nature,an shared some amazing stories and you were a real gentleman one of our last conversation was about money an how it was the root of all evil and people think money is everything an thinking about it your so right by the way Happy Heavenly Birthday had a slice of cake in your memory like I said I would rest easy I know you an Miss.Virginia are having a blast both of you R.I.P

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