PORTLAND, Ore. — Look who's riding shotgun in KGW Carpool! An Oregon icon. Barbara Roberts is the state's first woman Governor. She held office from 1991 to 1995 but you can read all about that someplace else.
I'm interested in digging past the party line to learn something you haven't heard before.
Governor Roberts is 82 years old now and still maintains a non-stop schedule that would tire out people half her age! She calls Sellwood home because she loves the vibe in Southeast Portland. "I grew up in a small town of fewer than 2,000 people and this neighborhood feels like a small town," Roberts told me.
Her son also lives about a block away from her condo. He's 63 and has autism. "I feel so good that he goes to the grocery store or the barber shop or goes to a restaurant and people know who he is. I mean, that's a real nice security for me," Roberts added.
Things are good now but when her son, Mike, was 6 years old -- and Governor Roberts was just a young mother -- she battled a medical establishment that blamed her for causing his autism. "There was a book that came out on autism around the time that Mike was at Parry Center and it described the cause of autism as "Refrigerator Mothers."
I had never heard that term before so the Governor explained to me a "Refrigerator Mother" is considered "cold and unfeeling." She knew that was nonsense and didn't describe her relationship with her son but she was inundated with expert advice that mistakenly argued otherwise.
"I would go to visit with Mike's counselor at Parry Center and it was not unusual for him to tell me, 'Barbara, you must understand this is not like heart disease. There is not going to be a cure and you must also understand that you are a big part of the reason for his disability.'"
Governor Roberts has so many stories about so many things. We drove around and talked for a couple of hours. Our conversation even outlasted the batteries in our car-mounted GoPros!!
One of my favorite stories is about her search for new love after being widowed for years. She told me laughing, "There was no way I could go online. Governors don't go online and find new friends." But she did find her perfect match and she met him the old fashioned way. They've actually known each other for years but reconnected when he came to one of her book signings. I got to see them together when I picked her up for Carpool and they exuded warmth and chemistry and showered each other with kisses! She beamed every time she mentioned him and they've been together almost eight years now. If you have any stereotypes about what it means to find love later in life, she will blow them away.
Enjoy the ride. I know I did!