Jack G. Roberts' mother erroneously was told that her son had gone "down with his ship" when the USS Arizona was sunk Dec. 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor.
Assigned to the Arizona as a machine gunner, Mr. Roberts, a Navy seaman second class, actually was recovering from surgery in a San Diego hospital at the time. He lost many buddies and all of his personal possessions when the ship went down.
Mr. Roberts died Saturday in Sheridan Manor Nursing Home in the Town of Tonawanda. He was 86.
Born in Rochester, Mr. Roberts moved to Buffalo in the 1940s. After his mother was told by naval authorities that he had been lost with the Arizona, she told them that he was safe in California. Following an extensive hospitalization, Mr. Roberts was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1942.
He worked myriad jobs, including as groundskeeper at Offerman and War Memorial stadiums and as a sorter for the U.S. Postal Service in Buffalo. He was 85 when he retired in 2005 from Ellicott Development, where he worked as a security guard.
Mr. Roberts was active in community athletic programs, including the Cheektowaga South Side Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball League. He was a former assistant director of Sloan recreation.
He also was very active in the Valley Community Association of South Buffalo and the First Ward Community Center.
Survivors include two sons, Jack and Donald; two daughters, Eileen Hornquist and Mary Kay; and his beloved friend, Jennie Caruso.
A prayer service will be at noon Wednesday in Daniel R. Smolarek Funeral Home, 2407 Broadway, Sloan.