Bath couple recognized for preservation, philanthropy

Published 7:06 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2019

BATH — Time, resources and funds — Gene and Susan Roberts have donated them all to frame Bath’s history for the future.

The couple was honored Saturday night by Historic Bath Foundation members for their role in creating the Historic Bath Exhibit Center in the old Bath High School building. Since 2010, HBF has used the Historic Bath Foundation Preservation awards to recognize those who have contributed to the preservation of Bath’s structures, beautification of the town, preservation leadership and/or the promotion and advancement of North Carolina’s oldest town.

According to HBF board member Karen Sayer, the Roberts have done it all with their museum efforts.

“Gene and Susan have exemplified all of these traits. In addition, they have given enormous time, energy, funding, gifts and shared influence to make the Bath Exhibit Center become a reality,” Sayer said. “Rare, indeed, to have so much interest, energy, commitment and willingness to share precious time in their eighth decade of life.”

The road to this reality began about a decade ago, when the Roberts were first to embrace the idea of locating museum in the northwest wing of the old Bath High School building, according to Sayer. The couple were instrumental in finding funding — not only for the museum, but for the preservation of the Bath High School building, which narrowly escaped demolition in 2005.

Sayer referred to the Roberts’ donation to the museum of 29 antique maps, dating from the 16th to the 19th century, as a gift that would be sought by any first-rate museum.

“A professor mentioned to me (Saturday) night, that he had been back three times to look at the map exhibit because they are so rare, and he had only seen them in books,” Sayer said. “The various artifacts they have gifted will be displayed for countless years, and it will be a big incentive for tourists to visit eastern North Carolina because of the rarity and relevance of them.”

Along with the Historic Bath Exhibit Center, the Roberts have extended their assistance to a number of other projects: the Marsh House restoration, the recently completed Bath Creek Park and stabilizing a number of Main Street structures.

“Their efforts have created a lasting testimony,” Sayer said. “Their generosity of time, leadership and philanthropy demonstrate a desire to share knowledge so that future generations not only learn from the past, but will hopefully respect and preserve it for subsequent generations.”