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Going strong after 51 years of ministry

Spotlight on Quitman church secretary Kay Roberts


J. Gerald Harris/Index

Kay Roberts, secretary for First Baptist Quitman, has served with eight different pastors in her tenure. Roberts is 96 years old.

QUITMAN — Many individuals might think that bright-eyed, perky, energetic, personable, and talented are the words one might use to describe a Miss America Pageant contestant, but not this time. These are adjectives that accurately describe Katherine “Kay” S. Roberts, the secretary of Quitman’s First Baptist Church.

“So what?” one might well reply. “There are many church secretaries, often the unsung heroes of the church, who could be described by those very same words.”

Certainly no discerning person would be critical of the work and demeanor of the average faithful ecclesiological clerical worker or mount an argument against the worth of those pastoral assistants who serve the church so effectively and unflinchingly. However, the perky, bright-eyed church secretary who is the subject of this news story is 96 years young.


From Kentucky to Quitman

Kay Roberts was born in Louisville, Ky., on July 17, 1911. Most notably, she began her service at First Baptist Church on August 27, 1956, which means she will begin her 52nd year of ministry at the Quitman church in just a few weeks. She has served the church during the ministry of eight different pastors. Her current pastor, Marty Carnes, still looks like a college student and isn’t so sure he can outlast her.

Roberts is the oldest of the three daughters born to Clarence Callaway Seaton and Jessie Seaton. She grew up in Louisville, was christened in the Presbyterian Church, graduated from the Atherton High School for girls, and went to the University of Louisville for two years before the family moved to Miami.

In an effort to become a responsible and independent person Roberts got a job in a 5 and 10 Cent Store in Miami and started living in the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). One evening the YWCA hosted a social event and Kay met a young man named Bill Roberts, who was a steward at a Methodist Church.

Bill was not completely happy with the Methodist church and he and Kay began dating, spending their Sundays going to Central Baptist Church in Miami where the notable C. Roy Angell was pastor. Both Bill and Kay united with the church, were baptized there, and within two years married by the beloved Central Baptist pastor.


Starting out

Bill Roberts was a professional photographer and his work took him first to Mobile, Ala., where he and Kay united with Dolphin Way Baptist Church during the ministry of Charles Baker Arendall.

From Mobile the Roberts moved to Bellville, Ill., and then to Valdosta before ultimately locating in Quitman, where Bill started working for Gulf Life Insurance (presently American General Life Insurance).

One son, Billy, was born into the Roberts family. Billy lives in Denver and he and his wife, Orveta have two grown sons, Todd and Korbett. Todd and his wife, Loren, are missionaries in Sheffield, England with Antioch Ministries International. They have one daughter, Weslie, which means that Kay has two grandsons and one great granddaughter.

The venerable church secretary worked with her husband in his photography studio and for a brief time taught in a kindergarten program, but became the secretary of the Quitman church more than half a century ago.


General flunky

“My job involves a world of detail,” Roberts stated. “I answer the telephone, help get people connected with others, order literature, and lots of other stuff. There is just too much to tell. I guess I am the general flunky.”

J. Gerald Harris/Index

“My job involves a world of detail,” said Kay Roberts, secretary of First Baptist Quitman. Pastor Marty Carnes, standing, estimates the 96-year-old Roberts clocks in regularly for a 50-60 hour workweek.

Roberts drives wherever she wants to go and lives alone. She explained, “I guess I don’t really live alone. I have my ‘Sweetie’ who lives with me. ‘Sweetie’ came to my door and I fed him and he just stayed. We talk a lot. He is a good cat.”

Although Roberts is paid a part-time salary, she works full time, because of her love for the job and the church. Carnes remarked, “She probably works 50-60 hours a week. She loves the Lord and this church more than anyone else I know.”

When Roberts eventually goes home in the evening she admitted to watching the news on television and observed, “I am scared to death over what our country is coming to. I think the Lord is dealing with us. I am afraid we have not measured up morally for a long time.”

She admitted, “I do like to watch that Dick Van Dyke program. I don’t know the name of it, but he’s a doctor at Community General Hospital.”

Roberts listens to classical music and particularly enjoys Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. She played the clarinet at the University of Louisville and Stedman Academy in Louisville, Ky.

Roberts also enjoys working with flowers, particularly the day lilies in her yard. She commented, “I can’t squat. I have to bend over, but my neighbors make me wear a red bandana when I work in the yard. They think if I am wearing a red bandana they will be able to see me more easily if I faint and fall over. My health is good, but my hearing is beginning to fade.”

The Quitman pastor declared, “There are many remarkable things about Miss Kay, but she demonstrates great faithfulness to her Lord and to her job. In fact, it is not just a job for her, but a calling. She is a blessing to all of us.”

Kay Roberts is 96 years old, but she is not just remarkable because of her age. She is just plain remarkable!