A large group of friends gathered recently at Sierra Waldorf School in Tuolumne County to honor the life of a much beloved member of the local community. Long time teacher, entertainer, and school administrator, Bill Roberson.

If you were lucky enough to be visiting the Stanislaus National Forest on a Tuesday over the last 30 or so summers, chances are you got to hear the stories and songs, and experience the warmth of this Tuolumne County legend. For over 25 years thousands of adults and children were charmed by Bill with the unique interactive “Tall Tales and Silly Songs” program he performed at Pinecrest Lake. His show mined traditional folk and children’s music and storytelling and combined it with his own personal sensibility and insights.

Accompanying himself on guitar, and employing both humor and wisdom, Bill’s unique connection with his audience allowed him to impart lessons about conservation, forest stewardship, and life in general that went straight to the heart and helped visitors to the Stanislaus gain a greater understanding of the forest and their relationship to it. Sponsored in part by Three Forests Interpretive Association, Bill’s presentations were in clear alignment with Forest Service’s mission to cherish and conserve these precious public lands. illustration by Ann Hince

Bill’s consummate skills as a storyteller and human being weren’t limited to his forest programs. His career as a teacher, folk singer, storyteller and school administrator were all pieces of an inspired lifetime. He brought a sense of joy to every new endeavor. As a founding member and long time faculty member of Sierra Waldorf School in Jamestown, Bill’s long career touched and brightened the lives of many.

In addition to his live performances, Bill recorded several CD’s of music and stories along with other nationally recognized storytellers B.Z. Smith and Cynthia Restivo, also known as The Story Quilters. In July, the National Storytelling Network honored Roberson with its 2019 Oracle Award for Service and Leadership in the Pacific States Region.

Stories are how we learn about the world. Sitting around a campfire and sharing tales is a tradition that is embedded in the National Forest experience in America. Bill will be sorely missed, but certainly many of his stories and songs will continue to be shared for years to come. A fund to support Bill’s daughter, Piper Roberson, has been set up at the Bank of Stockton at 242 S. Washington St. in Sonora.