Erna Roberts

Obituary of Erna Roberts

Erna P. Roberts, 100, Adrian, Michigan passed away peacefully Monday morning in Hollidaysburg, PA with family by her side. She was affectionately known by friends as Granny, G.G., and Grandma Roberts.

There were many chapters in Erna’s 100 years of life.  She was born June 25, 1917 in Tallinn, Estonia to the late Janis and Pauline Murmanis of Latvia.  Her early years were spent studying to get her business degree and practicing hard to become a concert pianist. 

In 1949, Erna, her husband Arijs, and their 4 daughters came to the US thru Ellis Island under the Displaced Persons Program and settled in Tecumseh, MI.  There she raised her daughters, became a grandmother, and worked hard as an engineering secretary for Tecumseh Products in Tecumseh, MI. In 1959, Erna became a proud United States Citizen. 

She retired from Tecumseh Products as an engineering secretary at the age of 65 and started the next chapter of her life. Erna opened and operated The Yarn Barn in Adrian, MI for many years.  After closing the business, she continued working at a friend’s jewelry store also in Adrian for several years. During this time, she started spending summers with family in Hollidaysburg, PA where she could be found almost daily in the yard tending to the flowers she so loved. 

At the age of 97, she and co-author Janice Whelan, published a book titled “Erna’s Life”.  This book is a story of Erna’s life and how she struggled to survive, keep her family safe, and escape to freedom during WWII.  Writing the book led to a whole new chapter in Erna’s life which included book signings, speaking engagements, and radio interviews in both the U.S. and Latvia.

The final chapter of Erna’s amazing life began with a large family gathering in Latvia in June to celebrate her 100th birthday.  She enjoyed every minute of the festivities including seeing her brother, Zigfrids, and other family members she had not seen for several years.

Erna’s passions included her family, flower gardening, knitting, crocheting, politics, Fox TV, travel, piano music, and reading.  She was a strong, determined, independent, inspirational and loving daughter, mother, sister, and grandmother who will be dearly missed.

Erna was preceded in death by two husbands: Arijs Freimanis and Gerald B. Roberts; a daughter, Inara Z. McGee and an infant brother, Janis Volmanis Murmanis.

Surviving are three daughters: Astride S. McLanahan (Michael) of Hollidaysburg, PA; Rudite Stevenson; and Zaiga Freimanis of TN. There are ten grandchildren: Tamara Jo Randall, Kathryn Randall, Colleen McL. Brock (Roger), Richard A. Johnston (Beth), D. Megan McLanahan, Devona Johnston, James A. Randall, Sean K. McLanahan (Diane), Kyle McGee (Emily), and Brian McGee. She is also survived by 22 Great Grandchildren, and 3 Great-Great Grandchildren scattered across the US with a Latvian heritage.

Visitation will be on Friday, September 8th, from 3-5 pm with a Funeral Service beginning at 5:00pm at Stevens Mortuary, 1421 8th Avenue, Altoona, PA.  The Committal Service will be held on Tuesday, September 12th, at 10:00 am at Anderson Funeral Home, 3050 W. Beecher Road, Adrian, MI. with burial following the service at Brookside Cemetery in Tecumseh, MI.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Erna P. Roberts Scholarship Fund: Mt. Aloysius College, 7373 Admiral Peary Highway, Cresson, PA 16630.

You may send condolences to the family at  

Envelopes are available at the Anderson-Marry Funeral Home, Adrian.