Roberta Donovan, 1940 - 2013
I first met Roberta Donovan in 1982. We had done some business together over the phone, and in one phone conversation discovered we were both going to a trade show in Dallas. We decided to meet for coffee in Dallas.
At our coffee meeting, Roberta and I had a very unusual conversation. We talked about the lack of spiritual growth and development on the part of the (mostly) men in our industry. This was not the type of subject matter one usually discussed in the computer industry in the early 1980s. (Believe me... no one else at the trade show in Dallas had a conversation anything remotely like this :-)
I discovered Roberta was a big believer in spiritual growth and had read extensively on the subject. I promised to read Wayne Dyer and eventually read "There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem" and "How to Get What You Really Really Want". We had long discussions about these books and our own experiences putting the ideas into practice. Then we were on to "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. More discussions, more applications of the ideas. Then Caroline Myss "The Anatomy of the Spirit". Then, of course, no spiritual journey is complete without M. Scott Peck's "The Road Less Travelled". These were just some of the books we read together and discussed ... Roberta was extremely well read on this subject. Roberta was a very "spiritually evolved" human being. Sometimes I felt like her puppy, running after her, trying to keep up. It was a challenge.
Roberta and I went on a cruise to Mexico together and had many mini-vacations together. She was always up for an adventure, meeting new people, and learning about them. In fact, Roberta was a virtuoso at communication -- in a class far above everyone else. Roberta could have a conversation with someone and learn so much about them from her questions and her gentle, non-threatening manner, and walk away from that conversation knowing far more about that individual than they knew about themselves. It was awe inspiring!
Roberta was a big believer in "dealing with your feelings" as she would put it. She was often disappointed in people who lacked the courage to examine their deepest feelings, identify those feelings, acknowledge the feelings, examine the source, and then take action on the feelings. Personally, I found this very hard to do, but with her prodding me on, over time, I was able to do it. Painful? Yes, but the inner peace at the end was always worth it.
I think that Roberta must have been very good at this herself. In our 31 year friendship, we never had a fight, she never got mad at me, there was never a problem. I am sure I must have done things from time to time that would have made her angry with me, but I think she was so good at dealing with her feelings and extending forgiveness that I never even knew about it. I cannot say this about anyone else.
Finally, I have to say that Roberta was the most unusually expressive person I have known. When she first moved into her place on Elmhurst Circle, I was completely floored that she had decorated her powder room completely in black with an Egyptian motif. Then, on one occasion, at a dinner party, she had an elephant as the table centerpiece. These are just not the kinds of design choices the average person makes. The elephant was a fitting symbol for Roberta. The elephant, in its most global and universal meaning, symbolizes strength and power, not only physical but also mental and spiritual. That was the Roberta I knew.