Stephen “Dusty” Roberts had a feeling this could be his last photo with his dad, Gordon Roberts, from outside the Broadmead care home. (Stephen Roberts Photo)

Stephen “Dusty” Roberts had a feeling this could be his last photo with his dad, Gordon Roberts, from outside the Broadmead care home. (Stephen Roberts Photo)

Esquimalt man honouring father’s legacy with birdfeeders for shut-in seniors in Greater Victoria

In his final days, Gordon Roberts loved his birdfeeder

Stephen “Dusty” Roberts remembers the first day he spent stuffing paper flyers for his dad’s new carpet-cleaning business into the mailboxes.

It was a Saturday in 1973 and they started in Colwood.

“The first job we got was from one of the flyers I had put in a mailbox. I still remember it. Mrs. Day on Pickford Road,” said Roberts, the owner-operator of Victoria-based Luv-A-Rug carpet cleaning services.

Roberts’ father, Gordon, died on Jan. 5 at age 91 (not of COVID-19). He spent his final months at the Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead. In the fall of 2019 Gordon’s needs had exceeded what his wife Connie, Roberts’ mom, could fulfill, and moved into a care home. When COVID-19 arrived in March, it meant he was cutoff from his family. Eventually, in the fall of 2020, Gordon moved into Broadmead, where he had wanted to be if he had to be in care.

Roberts would call as much as possible but with Gordon’s hearing at about 25 per cent, and even with a loudspeaker on the phone, calls were difficult at best, Roberts said. Gordon was thrilled when he was relocated to Broadmead.

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There he had a window that family could visit through. Outside the window Roberts installed a bird feeder, and his dad loved it.

“It’s hard to imagine what it’s like when you can’t see or speak to your loved ones,” Roberts said. “My sister [Sheila Pilkey] and I thought, maybe dad will like a bird feeder, a wild bird feeder or hummingbird feeder. We did, and whenever talked to him, he loved it, his face lit up.”

Roberts’ stepbrother, Robert Dow, paid for it.

Having seen how much his father enjoyed the bird feeder, Roberts had the idea to install them outside more care home windows.

“Especially during COVID-19, people are shut out. Anything that we can do, if it brings even a little joy. I will do it,” Roberts said.

Roberts called care homes around the region to gauge interest. One ordered 20 right away. He hopes to raise $10,000 toward the cause through his Luv-A-Rug business. He calls the online fundraiser the Luv-A-Senior fund. To raise the money, Roberts is selling area rug cleaning for half price, with a recommendation that the customer donates to the fund for bird feeders, and feed. Any excess money would go to the music therapy program at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

READ MORE: Music therapy strikes a chord in Oak Bay

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“It’s a two-for-one, we’ll do the first rug for free, and then we ask people to donate whatever their heart tells them [in lieu of] the second rug. If it’s three or more, it’s 50 per cent off the washing bill, with the same suggestion of donation,” Roberts said.

Luv-A-Rug is no stranger to charitable work. Since budgetary school district cutbacks in 2017 they’ve been cleaning area rugs for Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes for free. They are also running the fourth annual Warm Rugs for Cold Homes campaign, Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, with a goal of collecting 200 area rugs. The rugs are cleaned and donated to charities for use, such as covering a cold floor, or to sell and raise funds.

For Roberts, and family, it’s a perfect way to give back in Gordon’s honour.

Gordon was an electrician at the Esquimalt navy base for 27 years but was always doing something more. The family had seven kids and a farm with chickens, ducks, goats, horses, and a shag rug in the house.

“It looked like crap. I remember him saying to my mom, we need to clean it, and my mom said, ‘carpet cleaners were too expensive,’” Roberts recalled. “So my dad said, ‘son, get a bucket and some shampoo.’”

Roberts got a bucket of hot water and shampoo, and quickly learned that the shag looked good, but only for a day or two.

“It only pushed the dirt further into the rug and made the top look pretty,” Roberts said.

It stuck with Gordon, and it stuck with Roberts. Gordon soon started selling vacuum cleaners and carpet shampoo machines. That’s when he figured out people didn’t want to buy a machine. They wanted someone to do the cleaning for them.

“This is back when everything was carpeted. Kitchens, and bathrooms. Things that shouldn’t have been,” Roberts said. “My dad would do a demo with the shampoo machine. The idea was he’d wash one spot in the living room and they would see how clean it was and buy one. But they would ask, ‘Oh, Mr. Roberts, can you also clean this spot, and this one over here.’

“Then they would say, ‘I can’t afford a machine Mr. Roberts, but here is $10 for cleaning those spots.’ And that’s when my dad switched, and I started working for him.’”

For more information visit luvarug.com/seniors.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

 

Gordon Roberts, about one week before he died, during the 2020 winter holidays. (Stephen Roberts Photo)

Gordon Roberts, about one week before he died, during the 2020 winter holidays. (Stephen Roberts Photo)