A celebration of Laura’s life will be planned at some point in the future. If you are interested in attending, please email your contact information to
Laura Roberts passed away peacefully at age 87 on January 20, 2022 due to Alzheimer’s.
Laura was born in Midland, Michigan and lived there until graduating high school. She
moved to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan. She received a Bachelor of
Arts Degree from the College of Literature, Science and Arts followed by
a Master of Arts Degree in Biology focusing on the study of botany.
She paid her way through college, first by working in the Dow Chemical labs for a few summers during high school and early college. She also worked with Felix Gustafson, one of her botany professors and helped him trace the propagation of nutrients in bean plants using radioactive isotopes. She continued working with Professor Gustafson until graduating with her Master degree.
After completing her formal education, she married Gordon Roberts in 1958 and had three children Cindy, Glen, and Edsel. Laura lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the rest of her life.
If she had followed the norms of her generation, she might have been just a wife and mother but Laura came from a family of makers with diverse talents and interests. Laura was an intuitive creator, inventor, and individual thinker who forged a unique path in life.
When her children were born in the early 1960s she insisted on natural childbirth. After much
convincing, her medical team supported her choice. This was trailblazing for the era. She was an
organic gardener before most people were aware of the issues of using chemicals in the garden.
She had a large productive garden from the beginning of her marriage until her dementia kept
her from keeping it up. Laura even kept chickens in the city long before it was allowed. She
designed and built the coop and kept a small flock going for quite a few years. She would share
the eggs with the neighbors and everyone seemed to enjoy having the chickens around. Eventually
though, the city made her get rid of the chickens.
She was a charter member of the Michigan Botanical Club along with her friend Edward Voss, who is known for his books on the flora in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. She would often visit the Botanical Gardens or go on hikes that Herb Wagner, another one of her professors, would lead on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. These hikes were often through bogs and usually with her children in tow. She continued an association with the Botany department and her professors long after she got her degree.
She became interested in how food affects your health in the late 1960s and by the early 1970s she had dramatically changed what she and her family ate. She eliminated white bread and sugary foods and made her own whole wheat bread for many years. As she learned more about food and health, her cooking evolved into first vegetarian and then macrobiotic vegetarian. She even traveled to Brookline, Massachusetts for a week-long intensive macrobiotic cooking seminar. Her food choices continued to evolve as she learned new information. Most of the vegetables she cooked came from her large organic garden.
The Ann Arbor Y played a large part in the evolution of her interests. In the late 1960s she began experimenting with silk screening using photographic techniques to create her designs. This led to teaching a silk-screening class at the Y in the early 1970s. In addition, she made silk screened cards to order and also sold her own card designs at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. One of her long-time customers was Herb Wagner. He was an avid butterfly collector so every year Laura would make a Christmas card for him using one of his butterflies for the design.
Her involvement at the Y led to her taking a yoga class from Mary Palmer and Pricilla Neal,
the two women responsible for bringing Iyengar yoga to Ann Arbor. She took her first class
around 1976 when yoga was still a fairly unusual activity. Laura immersed herself in the study of
yoga and began teaching classes at the Y. She also traveled to India throughout the 1980s
three different times to study with Mr. Iyengar at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga
Institute in Pune. Each trip she would go for about a month. In addition to studying at the
Institute she would shop for fabrics as she was an avid sewer. She would come home from each
trip with the most beautiful silk fabrics.
In her early yoga career, there was not much choice of clothing to wear for practice, mostly it was baggy sweatpants or a leotard. Neither worked well for Laura so she created what she named the Legband™ short plus matching tops. Others liked her design and began to ask her to make them outfits. This led to the creation of a business and the founding of Yogaware® which is still based in Ann Arbor and now owned by her daughter Cindy. She created her Legband™ shorts in the late 1970s and believes she was the first to design this type of short for yoga. This style is now often referred to as the Pune short.
In addition to designing and sewing all of the yoga clothing, Laura created a line of corduroy-covered foam props. She designed these as she observed what would be helpful to her students in yoga class. She soon became the source for props in the Ann Arbor Iyengar Yoga community. Through word of mouth, she also was shipping her products across the US and internationally. Laura was not interested in running a big business so she chose to continue hand-making her products and giving personalized service rather than expanding.
Laura eventually took up belly dancing as well. This allowed her to combine her love of music,
movement and sewing. She had great fun making all of her belly dance costumes which incorporated
some of the beautiful fabrics from her trips to India. Over the years the class had quite a few
performances including two years for the Ann Arbor Art Fair and one performance at the Detroit
Renaissance Center. Laura and her class also danced at her daughter Cindy’s wedding reception.
She also took creative writing and drawing classes through Kay Gould-Caskey of Falling Water Books. She had drawing notebooks for each of her grandkids Jennifer, Brad, and Sarah so they could spend time sketching together. The grandkids also got to help plant seeds in the garden and eat the proceeds straight from the garden. This included raspberries and blackberries along with the vegetables. Laura also used her sewing skills to make dress up costumes for her grandkids. Laura really enjoyed spending time and sharing her creativity with them.
There are countless examples of her ingenuity and creativity, but one of her family’s favorite
examples were the benches she built for her living room. Laura had noticed a developer up the
hill from her house getting ready to dispose of a large walnut tree. Her children had played on
the hill and under that tree for many years. Laura thought it was a shame that this beautiful
tree was considered trash. She convinced the developer to let her have it and then just about
blew out the clutch on the family truck moving the tree down to her house.
She found a sawmill that would cut the tree into boards. She was very specific that she wanted the boards to have the raw shape of the edge of the tree trunk left on them. Once cut the boards were left to cure for a few years. When the wood was ready, she created three nesting benches. The largest one was about eight feet long and was designed to fit under her living room window. The smaller benches were designed to tuck under the larger one. Much of the rest of the wood was used to make shelving to go on either side of the window. All of the pieces were designed, constructed and finished by Laura, in the style of George Nakashima, who was known for his freeform edges that followed the natural shape of the wood on his furniture designs.
As Laura’s abilities declined, the Silver Club at the U of M Turner Geriatric Center provided her a friendly, supportive environment where she had the opportunity to continue to have involvement with music and art. We would like to thank all the wonderful people who provided loving care for Laura as her abilities diminished over the years. This includes those who supported her at home, Silver Club and Arbor Care on Independence where she was under hospice care until her passing.
Laura derived much joy from sharing her knowledge, wisdom and creativity with others through teaching and friendship. Having wonderful friendships and both mentoring and being mentored was the key to her life experiences that took her in many interesting directions. Her intuitive wisdom, vivacious style and infectious smile will be missed.
In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to support the Silver Club Memory Programs at the University of Michigan.
Gifts may be made by visiting the website victors.us/lauraroberts,
by calling 734-764-6777 or by check made out to
“University of Michigan” and sent to the
Michigan Medicine Office of Development
777 E Eisenhower Pkwy, Ste 650
Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
All donations will go directly to the Silver Club.