Juarez Roberts

About the Author

Juarez Roberts was born on March 23, 1923 in Prague, Oklahoma, the son of a Welsh-Irish farm boy from the Midwest who ran off to fight at the side of Emiliano Zapata in the Mexican Revolution and a part-Cherokee, but mostly Scots school marm from Kentucky, who taught her semi-literate husband his letters so well that the five Roberts kids could all recall with enthusiasm their daddyís dramatic nightly readings from books that ranged from Robert Serviceís The Shooting of Dan McGrew to Homerís Odyssey. At some point Charles Patrick Roberts learned to be a mechanic, and the children were born and grew up in a succession of shotgun houses in rough oil field towns during the hard scrabble years of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression..

These were some of the memories of his childhood: a stench like rotten eggs that hung over everything; regularly being put for safety into the iron bathtub with his three sisters and baby brother on Saturday nights when the rowdies shot up the town; learning to read when he was about four or five from the big sign on the Eureka Tool and Die Company across the road from where they lived and where the jarring thump of the steam hammer went day and night without ceasing; his first dog, a rat terrier named Sidney that his father won in a card game, and whose job it was to clear the house of vermin when they moved. The kids all loved that dog a lot.

And years later when he was eighteen and not long out of high school, there was the day that his parents, Charlie and Winnie Ora, gathered their family around the radio to hear the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Juarez quickly enlisted in the paratroops. After training he became a member of Hdq Hdq Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US Armyís 82nd Airborne Division. He jumped into Normandy on D-Day, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and made the Operation Varsity Jump, that was the only jump onto German soil, on March 23rd 1945. It was his 22nd birthday and his birthday present was to survive. A lot of his friends, equally brave men, the handful of oldtimers and the newer replacements, didnít. For his combat service Juarez was awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantry Badge with two arrowheads and four stars.

He did a lot of things after the war. He went to the University of Oklahoma at Norman, working as a short order cook in a diner owned by two lady County Agricultural Agents until his GI Bill finally came through. After college he moved to California and thought about becoming an actor like his pretty blonde sister Jean who acted in films under the name Meg Randall. But he ended up a writer instead. It was probably inevitable. He liked to tell a story, aloud or on paper, and he could tell it well. People would listen to him raptly. They would laugh at his jokes, and wonder after, when they retold his stories, why they never sounded as funny.

While at college, he married Barbara Jane Petersen, whom he met one day and married almost the next It didnít take them long to discover that they had little in common but their impulsiveness, but they both put in eight difficult years stubbornly trying to make the marriage work. During that time, when acting failed to provide much of an income, Juarez took a job in a steel foundry, eventually rising to become the foreman. He had a lot of natural leader quality. In combat , he was the guy the rest of the squad trusted and would follow readily. But away from combat, that was another story. He respected ability and integrity, not rank or title. This cost him his noncom stripes more than once, and when he finally did get his start as a writer, he was no better at deferring to producers than heíd been to officers. Perhaps that was one reason why his Hollywood career never went as far as it might have. There were other reasons. Back then they didnít call it Post Traumatic Stress, but his war experiences haunted him for the rest of his life. Sometimes he wrote about them, and sometimes he tried to drink himself into forgetfulness, though for the last more than twenty years of his life he gave up drinking entirely. He took up racing desert bikes. He learned to fly a glider. He interested himself in music and eventually became fairly competent on the Northumbrian bagpipes, which he had been drawn to after having heard British regimental pipers on the Rhine Crossing during the war. After he stopped working at the foundry he took up modeling in wax and cast the bronzes at a friendís studio. It might have grown to be more than a hobby, but he gave away just about everything he made, and by then his professional focus was on his writing.

In December 1954 he and Barbara Jane had finally decided to call it quits. Some months after they separated, in the summer of 1955, he met and married Sonya Levene who had come out to Hollywood as a junior writer directly from getting her MA in Theatre at Smith College. They soon moved to a tiny cottage at Trancas Beach, which they rented from a retired professor of English literature at UCLA and his wife who became their good friends as well as next door neighbors. It was there that Juarez wrote his first full hour script. It sold quickly to the US Steel Hour which was produced by the Theatre Guild in New York. The young couple moved east to participate in the production and a couple of years later, with the demise of live TV, returned west to write for a variety of filmed dramatic shows.

Juarezís Hollywood credits included Bonanza, Checkmate, Hawaiian Eye, Channing, and Adventures in Paradise as well as a couple of pilot scripts written for Dick Powell at Four Star. It never became a problem that he and his second wife both wrote professionally. They were generous with their praise of each otherís work, impersonal in their criticism, and took as much pride in the otherís achievement as in their own. It may have been one reason why the marriage, while never placid, lasted well, the other being their only child, their daughter Wendy. Juarez said he liked having a daughter and he meant it. But that didnít keep him from taking her along to motorcycle races or rock-hounding in Dead Horse Canyon, or teaching her to throw a creditable right cross. He was a good father as he was good at everything to which he enthusiastically gave his heart.

But he never gave it more fully than to his time in the 507th PIR. That might be hard to understand for anyone who had not personally experienced the intense, close comradeship of those young men with the boyish faces and the old eyes that had seen much beyond their few years. Juarez spoke of a day after mustering out, when he said goodbye to another survivor buddy on the train platform. They were leaving on separate trains going in different directions. They were young enough to look forward to good times ahead, but what could ever replace what they had shared in the past? So they just shook hands and said goodbye, and knew that they would never see each other again. It was a moment Juarez would remember for the rest of his life.

In Heavenís Pavement he dealt with the impact of combat, at both the spiritual and physical levels on human lives and everything surrounding them. At the end of the Forword he wrote:

"When the surviving paratroopers came home from World War II, we were thought of by some as heroes. We thought of ourselves as no more than good troopers. The real heroes were those who died over there. Heavenís Pavement is a salute to those who will be a sacred part of the soil of Europe forever.Ē

Juarez Roberts died on February 21, 2009. He is survived by his wife Sonya and daughter Wendy. And by this book.

Heaven's Pavement