As an experienced self advocate who has lived independently in the community for over 47 years, Roberta Middagh brings her unique perspective to The Arc, Upper Valley’s board of directors, which she joined in 2017.
Along with her twin brother, Roberta was placed at the Life Skills & Transition Center in Grafton, ND (formerly called the Grafton State School) when she was just three years old. At the age of 19, she left the institution and moved to Grand Forks. Her twin remained at Grafton for another 13 years until he, too, was moved to Grand Forks.
“I didn’t get to see him much after I left Grafton, but when he moved to Grand Forks, I visited him every day at his group home. I still see him almost every day.”
They remain close and keep in touch with their many siblings and nieces and nephews who live all across the United States.
She enjoys a full social life, dining out regularly with friends and taking vacations to Nashville, TN and Branson, MO, among other places.
“Nashville was okay,” she said, “but I liked Branson better.”
Her choice of destinations is no surprise – she is a big fan of country music, particularly Hank Williams Sr. “I like all country music, but mostly the older songs from the 50’s & 60’s.”
Roberta has always been actively involved in the community as a volunteer and advocate. She helps serve the meal every year at the Inter-Agency Picnic, is part of Development Homes Speakers Bureau and worked on Self Advocacy Solutions’ Spread the Word to End the “R” Word Campaign. She helps prepare newsletter mailings for the L.I.S.T.E.N. Center and helps out with other tasks whenever she can.
She worked as a dishwasher at UND Dining Services in the Memorial Union, retiring in April 2016 after 29 years, and although she once had a roommate long ago, she has lived in her own apartment for most of her life in Grand Forks.
“I like my privacy,” she said.
Since retiring, she keeps busy playing cards with her friends at the L.I.S.T.E.N. Center and league bowling on the Development Homes team at Red Ray Lanes. She likes UND sports, but doesn’t attend the games, as she’d rather watch them on TV from the comfort of her home. She also does plastic canvas crafts.
Roberta had knee replacement surgery in 2015, and it barely slowed her down. However, it did prevent her from bowling in the last part of the league season that year, much to her dismay.
During her recuperation, she learned that her close friend, Beverly, whom she had known since childhood, had passed away.
“I knew her since we were little girls in Grafton. We were like sisters,” she said. “When I found out that she passed away, I was too upset to eat dinner that night.”
Losing her friend was difficult and although she still misses her, she cherishes the memories she has of their lifelong friendship.
Roberta is well-connected and knows her way around the community. She knows the city bus routes and although she doesn’t drive, she knows all the streets and intersections and can give incredibly accurate driving directions.
When asked what advice she would have for someone new moving to Grand Forks, she said, “I’d say welcome to Grand Forks. Here’s my phone number. Call me if you need help or just want to talk.”