Freeman of the city

Who was the man behind Cranbrook's T.M. Roberts Elementary?

T.M. Roberts

The school bearing his name has kept the memory of T.M. Roberts very much alive in Cranbrook.

It’s a community that benefitted from his leadership in ways that may not be known to all, but with the anniversary of the T.M. Roberts Elementary School it’s being brought front of mind.

Thomas Mason Roberts was Cranbrook’s mayor for 16 consecutive terms – many of which were acclaimed – from 1924 to 1940. He was born in Chester, England in 1875 and came to Cranbrook in 1902. He quickly grew to love the city and remained there for the rest of his life.

Roberts began his first steps towards the mayorship when he began work as city clerk at City Hall in Cranbrook in 1906. He stayed at that post for 17 years before seeking the mayor’s chair in 1924.

The Cranbrook Courier reported following his death on July 29, 1943, that Roberts oversaw Cranbrook’s transformation “from a rough frontier settlement to the modern, well-regulated city it is today.”

Roberts leaned heavily on his experience as city clerk during his time as mayor. The Courier described his “tactfulness and undeniable gift of business shrewdness,” that made him perfect for the job.

“Under his skillful direction the corporation instituted a program of shrewd financing and civic improvement, the beneficial effects of which are in evidence today,” the Courier wrote.

Cranbrook has grown in many ways since Roberts was mayor, but the strong foundation set forth in those early council meetings set the city on its path.

Roberts welcomed many prestigious guests during his tenure including the Duke of Windsor, later King Edward VIII and Prince George, Duke of Kent. Many of Canada’s Governor Generals of the time visited Cranbrook with Roberts providing a welcome as well.

After 12 years of service to the city, Roberts was named Freeman of the City at a public ceremony in Rotary Park in 1938.

Beyond his civic duty, Roberts was an active member of the community, being a member of a number of different service organizations. He was the secretary of the first volunteer fire brigade in 1905, which was then under the command of J.P. Fink, Cranbrook’s first fire chief.

He was a member a number of Masonic organizations including the Cranbrook Lodge No. 34, Selkirk Preceptory and the Knights Templar.

Roberts retired from the mayor position in 1940 when his health began to deteriorate, but he continued to run a real estate and insurance business. He passed away on July 25, 1943 – just weeks after his wife Louise died on June 9 of the same year.

After Roberts’ death, the Union Jack was flown at half mast in his memory.

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