SANTA FE, N.M. — Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday for Earlene Roberts of Lovington, a businesswoman and longtime member of the state House of Representatives who served in the Republican leadership.
Roberts died Tuesday at age 77 after a three-year battle with lung cancer, according to her son, Robbie Roberts of Lovington.
“Mother lived a large life, and we are celebrating her life,” Robbie Roberts said.
Earlene Roberts raised her children on a farm, owned a real estate business and a restaurant, served four terms as Lea County treasurer, and was a member of the state House from 1989 through 2004.
“She could drive a tractor, argue with the governor, flip a pancake, counsel with someone in need and sell a property all before 7 a.m. on a Monday morning,” according to an obituary written by her family.
She was the House minority whip from 1999 through 2002, and the Republican caucus chairwoman in 1995-96.
Former state Rep. Blake Curtis, a Clovis Republican who served with Roberts for six years, remembered her Wednesday as a person of strong convictions and deep family values who “squeezed every ounce of life out of every day that she lived.”
“Earlene was very passionate about everything she took on: the freedoms of an individual, independent businesses, the protection of property rights … families, children, education, how to make the state a better place,” Curtis said.
“She really strove to understand people, even when in her heart she was convinced they were wrong,” said Curtis, who was one of Roberts’ predecessors as minority whip and also was minority leader.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., also served with Roberts in the Legislature and described her as a friend and role model who was “never afraid to do the right thing.”
An ally of business and a staunch social conservative, Roberts was unseated in the 2004 GOP primary by Roswell businessman Keith Gardner – now chief of staff to Gov. Susana Martinez. The contest underscored the rift in the Republican Party that was partly a legacy of the dispute in the late 1990s over GOP Gov. Gary Johnson’s push to liberalize drug laws. Roberts said she was targeted by state party leaders because of her outspoken criticism of Johnson’s proposals.
Roberts was preceded in death by husbands Doyle Roberts, to whom she was married for 46 years, and Holmes Lovejoy, to whom she was married for nearly 10 years. She is survived by two daughters, her son, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Lovington, with burial at Resthaven Cemetery. Visitation will be held today from noon to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Kirby-Smith-Rogers Funeral Home in Lovington.