Thomas Charles Roberts, 93, died November 8, 2019 at Ascension Via Christi Village in Manhattan, Kansas.
Tom was born September 22, 1926 in Burrton (Harvey County), Kansas – the son of Ernest and Mildred (Miller) Roberts Abston.
He attended grade school in Halstead, Kansas graduating from Halstead High School in 1944. Upon graduation, as a 17-year-old, Tom joined the Army Air Corps. He left for Leavenworth, Kansas in February 1945 to be inducted into the military service. Tom was sent to Sheppard Field, Texas where he passed all his tests to become a pilot. However, World War II ended, and he was honorably discharged in November 1945. In September 1946, he enrolled in Agriculture and Applied Science classes at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, graduating January 1950.
Tom was united in marriage to Dixie Werner in Newton, Kansas on January 1, 1947 and lovingly married for over 72 years. Together, Tom and Dixie traveled, were avid K-State fans, active grandparents, and taught ballroom dancing lessons in Manhattan for 30 years. They organized and managed Club Manhattan LTD, a dance club, for 20 years.
After Tom graduated from K-State, he briefly taught a Veteran’s On-the-Farm Training Program at Buhler, Kansas. In the fall 1950 he moved to Lebanon, Kansas to teach vocational agriculture at Lebanon High School. From 1953 to 1956, he taught vocational agriculture at Lyndon High School in Lyndon, Kansas.
In May 1956, he was appointed Assistant Secretary for the Kansas Crop Improvement Association and moved his family to Manhattan, Kansas. In 1961 the family moved to Scott City, Kansas when Tom accepted a position as General Manager for Frontier Hybrids Inc.
Tom was appointed Executive Director, Wheat Quality Council in 1966 and devoted his professional life to fostering wheat quality. For over 27 years he served the winter wheat industry admirably and provided an important communications bridge between the milling and baking industry and hard-red winter wheat improvement programs. Tom was often called the “wheat man” and proudly owned and displayed the “WHEAT” state license plate on his vehicle as he drove from county to county judging and promoting quality. In 1974, he served as co-chairman on the Governor’s Wheat Centennial committee and directed a year-long education and celebration of wheat brought to Kansas by Russian Immigrants.
Even after his retirement, Tom continued to organize the Kansas State Fair Wheat Show. One author wrote: “One of the unsung heroes of the wheat industry, Tom puts on the best wheat show, probably in the world, each year! He has a special flair for young people and for doing young things. He enjoys watching the children pound on the bags of wheat. Tom always said, every Kansas child should get to feel a solid sample of wheat before he or she departs for the outside world!”
Aside from his professional career, Tom was a Lions Club member for over 50 years. He served as president, Kansas Lions Sight Foundation, was District Governor, and an avid pin trader. He organized the first Kansas Lions Highway Trash Pick Up Program. Tom spent hundreds of hours building and supervising the construction and development of the Hurst Majors Children’s Zoo at Sunset Park in Manhattan and with Lions Club members help, completed the project in 12 years. He was a part time courier for the K-State Athletic Department and an avid sports fan of K-State athletics, holding season football tickets for 52 years. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church where he taught Sunday School Class, helped with youth groups, and served as an usher for 25 years.
He is survived by his wife Dixie and two sons: Tom (Karen), Brad (Janette) all residing in Manhattan, Kansas. Tom has four grandsons Greg (Mari), Pinsaguel, France; Chad, Palm Harbor, Florida; Brett (Laurel), New Orleans, Louisiana; Spencer (Courtney), Shawnee, Kansas. Four great grandchildren: Ayden, Emma, Rowen, and Jack.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents and stepfather Orville Abston, two sisters Genevieve (Roberts) Olin and Wilma Jean (Abston) Tousignant and brother Maurice Roberts. He is survived by his brothers; Ralph Abston of Howe, Indiana; and Larry Abston (Patricia), Loveland, Colorado. Sisters Joan (Roberts) Brenneman-Miller (Gene), Hesston, Kansas, Tressa (Abston) Suffield (Claney) Amarillo, Texas, and brother-in-law Wolf Mey, plus many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services with military honors will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, November 13th, at the First United Methodist Church, 612 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, with Reverend Melanie Nord officiating. Interment will follow at Sunrise Cemetery in Manhattan.
The family will receive friends from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 12th, at the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home. The family will also greet friends from 9:30 to 10:15 A.M. Wednesday at the church prior to the service in the connecting link.
Memorial contributions may be made to Ascension Via Christi Village, Kansas Wheat Commission Research Fund, and Kansas Lions Sight Foundation. Contributions may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502.