In the late 1970s – about the time the Robertsons were considering where to retire – they were visiting in Los Angeles and met some people who were moving to Evergreen, giving them a reason to make a stop here on a later trip. By 1978 Sylvia and Bob Robertson were calling this home.
Sylvia hailed from Topeka but had pursued a career in teaching elementary school – mostly third grade – in Ft. Lauderdale, Cape Cod, and Dayton where Bob had been stationed in the Air Force. She continued teaching as a substitute throughout Jefferson County for another 15 years.
In years past, Sylvia and Bob traveled quite a bit, attending military conventions and viewing Civil War battlefields. She spoke with enthusiasm about the new brew pub planned for the Evergreen Conference Center, as visiting local brew pubs was always one of her favorite activities while traveling.
Upon relocating to Evergreen, she quickly learned she’d need to develop some new interests and make some new friends.
By 1978 Evergreen had just about tripled its year-round population from 1970, so welcoming newcomers was something that was easy for everyone who lived here. Sylvia traces her involvement back to meeting Ann Roux at a New Year’s Eve party at Greystone. Ann invited Sylvia to participate in the League of Women Voters, and it was there that her list of acquaintances grew to include people like community activist Sheila Clark, volunteer extraordinaire Allyson Gottsman and author Diane Mott-Davidson.
With an inquisitive mind and a yen for keeping abreast of current events, Sylvia gravitated toward groups that would nourish her soul, and she’s stayed involved with the same groups for many years. There’s book club that’s simply referred to as “The Freddie Lincoln,” a group of 20 or so women previously associated with the American Association of University Women (AAUW), an organization that disbanded its Evergreen chapter about 20 years ago. And then there’s the “Unless It Snows” book club. “I enjoy living in Evergreen because of the interesting people,” she says.
Attracted to AAUW because of the topics for discussion, she expanded her list of acquaintances – especially the year she served as Membership Chair when she had to contact everyone on the roster.
As a woman who’s passionate about her political beliefs, Sylvia has been active in Mountain Area Democrats, helping to arrange for speakers and making arrangements for meetings. In conjunction with that, she’s helped staff a booth at the Earth Day fair for a number of years, noting this is the first year the group won’t be there to pass out educational information about candidates who share the same environmental values of most who provide the foot traffic through the Lake House for that occasion.
She’s stayed active in the League of Women Voters for 35 years, soaking up what she hears speakers present on subject such as human trafficking in Jefferson County, fracking, sustainability, making teachers more accountable, the school board budget, libraries and other topics of interest to communities. It’s a nonpolitical group. She likes being around other sharp women.
Visiting with the 14+ felines at Chow Down at any one time is something she does each month as well, filling in rather than working on a routine basis through the Evergreen Animal Protective League. Chow Down houses the cats up for adoption. She’s a cat person herself, so she finds talking to them, feeding them and giving them attention to be a pleasant job despite having to clean the litter box.
Doing the dirty work doesn’t keep Sylvia from getting involved. In fact, she’s played a key role over the years with the Community Weed Awareness program of Evergreen Audubon, an effort to help neighbors be able to identify noxious weeds. Sixteen years ago she and Kathy Shelton had been complaining about the weeds when cross-country skiing and decided to start a weed group, devoted to education mainly.
Once each year the group would sponsor Weed Day, organizing volunteers to actively work at pulling weeds around the lake, which had become a serious problem. That same day they’d have weed experts available to help answer questions and identify sprigs of plant life that 200 or more people would bring with them. Some volunteers continued to weed around the lake on a weekly basis during the growing season. With a phone call to the Nature Center, members of the weed group will still make a personal call to a person’s home to help identify weeks.
This year, since the Evergreen Park and Recreation District (EPRD) was successful in getting a grant to control weeds, the team will focus their attention on areas affected by the flooding of last fall, hoping they can help control the spread of pesky plants like Orange Hawkweed, an ornamental flowering plant now considered an invasive species known to spread with wild abandon.
Audubon is another group one of those groups she’s been part of for 35 years. Although not as actively involved as she once was, she still helps out seasonally at the Nature Center welcoming visitors and answering questions.
In recent years Sylvia has become more of a sit-back volunteer who’s learned not to raise her hand and volunteer for duties quite so much. But she’s still finding ways to keep her community vibrant and welcoming for others who move here.
“Wherever your interests are, there’s something to do!” she’s quick to say. And she knows!