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November 23, 2020

11/6/2020 7:30:00 AM
John L. Roberts

Gone Fishin'...

John L. Roberts' battle with pancreatic cancer ended on Nov. 1, 2020. He left his adoring family and beloved Pelican Lake to continue his love of fishing with the promise of never having to come off the water.

John was born to William and Millie Roberts, in Martinsburg, West Virginia, on March 30, 1937. His family later moved to Janesville, where he graduated from high school in 1956. He continued to the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, receiving his bachelor's degree and meeting his beloved wife, Sonja (Hanson) Roberts. They married in Sonja's hometown of Baraboo on Aug. 27, 1960. Following his bachelor's, John served our country for six and a half years in the Army Reserve and National Guard, later earning a master's degree in Education from La Crosse.

The young couple moved to Antigo in 1961, where John spent his life leaving an impact on everyone he met. He spent 34 years teaching physical education at Antigo High School and coaching athletics, including wrestling and football. One of his most significant contributions was establishing the Youth Wrestling Program in Antigo. John retired from teaching in 1995 but continued to substitute for 12 more years. After his retirement, Antigo High School established the John Roberts Duals (Scramble) Wrestling Tournament in his name.

In 1962, John and Sonja purchased a small cottage on Pelican Lake, where they would spend their next 58 summers. There, in 1995, they built and moved into their dream home. John spent many of his days on the water fishing for perch, pike, walleye, and the infamous musky. For 20 years, John and Sonja spent the winters enjoying the warmth of South Padre Island, Texas.

Throughout his life, John remained committed to his community, serving in multiple church leadership positions, including Head Trustee of UCC Church in Antigo and as a member of the Men's Club at UCC Church of Elcho. John was a member of the Antigo Elks Club, where he belonged for 54 years. He also volunteered for more than 25 years at Kettle Bowl Ski Hill.

Many knew John as Coach or Mr. Roberts, but his favorite titles were Dad, Grandpa, and Papa. A diehard sports fan, Grandpa loved nothing more than watching his grandkids participate in their favorite sports and activities. He also loved "stirring the pot" with his children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren, teaching them wrestling moves and making them laugh.

John is survived by his wife, Sonja (Hanson) Roberts; his daughter, Angela (Mark) Cotteleer of Franklin; his son, Mike (Angie Roberts) Roberts of Rhinelander; his grandchildren, Andy (Tina), Matt, Luke (Emma), Laine, and Livi; his brothers William Roberts Woodstock, Md. and Charles Roberts of Martinsburg, West Virginia; his sister, Doris "Marveen" (Roberts) Price of Martinsburg, West Virgina; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Millie; and his sisters Ruth "Teena" Arneson and Maxine Roberts.

The family plans to hold a Celebration of Life for John in Summer, 2021.

Remembrances may be sent in John's name to the Retired Educators of Langlade County Scholarship Fund (Address: N3663 Height Drive, Polar, WI 54418) or the Antigo High School Athletic Department.

Strasser-Roller Funeral Home is assisting the family. Friends may visit online at

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, November 7, 2020
Article comment by: Bruce Kotila

Although I didn’t know your dad, he must have been proud of you and your family. You have been a credit to the Rhinelander community.
I send my sincere condolences to you, Angie, and all your family.
Bruce Kotila MD

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