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Roberts views renovation as tribute to his parents
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When Ronny Roberts decided to take on the renovation of his family home at 406 Locust St., they had no idea just how much work it would take. One thing he knew was he wanted it restored as somewhat of a tribute to his parents, Nella Mae and Willow Ray Roberts, often referred to as Comrade Ray.
Ronny and his wife, Marta, have restored it to create a family home full of character and charm, updating the kitchen and utility room areas, but keeping much of the home’s original look. Helping the Roberts’ with the decision making and completing the job were father and son team, Charles and Ben Foust. 
Ray and Nella Mae purchased the home in 1931 from Dr. Claude L. and Corinne McCollum. The original part of the house is believed to have been constructed in 1865 by Judge Warren, boasting three bedrooms and a lovely winding staircase in the foyer. The couple made their home there for the rest of their lives, and raised their two sons, Ronald R. and Charles Wood Roberts, there.
“The home place does have a sentimental value for me,” said Ronny. “And I wanted to restore it to its original condition.”
The staircase is the focal point of the home after entering from the large porch expanding across the front of the house. The original five-inch oak boards are still in the upstairs rooms, and the entire downstairs has been floored with five-inch boards similar to the original. Three fireplaces throughout the home are welcoming, and a modern kitchen and utility room are out of necessity.
The kitchen has been modernized with granite counters, new wood cabinets, tile floors, a handy center island and stainless steel appliances.
“This kitchen is certainly not like the original design, but we decided to modernize it, and make it more convenient,” said Ronny. 
Ray and Nella Mae were very well known in the community, both having unique interests and  personalities. 
Mr. Roberts was a World War I veteran who spent a large part of his adult civilian life serving his fellow veterans and their families in times of need, and in advancing the cause of veterans of all of America’s wars. In 1977 he was honored as the recipient of the coveted VFW Citizenship Award.
Roberts was a native of White County and was a leader in veterans affairs of Warren County and the Midstate since shortly following World War I.
He came to McMinnville in 1920 to enroll in the Southern School of Photography, but chose not to follow the profession.
He married Nella Mae Wood in 1926 and they began the operation of a grocery store on East Main St. Shortly thereafter, Roberts who preferred automobiles to cameras, began working on cars in front of the store while his wife waited on customers. He also formed Roberts’ Radiator Service, and later founded B&R Electrical Supply Co., which was in operation until an accident forced him to retire in 1973.
Roberts was among the first Warren countians to become active in American Legion Post 173, and many feel the organization may have ceased to exist during the depression years except for his efforts. He became service officer of the post in 1930, and in 1959 was named as veterans service officer for Warren County. Much of this work was completed at his own expense.
Roberts’ name is connected with two vehicles in Warren County’s past. In the late 1930s John W. High gave the American Legion Post a 1932 Sears and Scovill ambulance. Roberts kept the vehicle in operation for many years . During its years of operation, it became known from coast to coast being driven to every state convention and to 16 national conventions of the American Legion from Atlantic City and California, to Chicago and Miami.
The other vehicle in his life resulted from his reputation as a man who could do anything. At the request of a school teacher, he built a locomotive to pull some red wagons in a parade. Taking a 1932 Austin chassis, he fashioned a locomotive out of mattress boxes and other materials, and painted it black. He intended to remove the cardboard after the parade, but there were too many requests from children to ride in it. He took the cardboard off and replaced it with sheets of steel. The McMinnville Choo Choo traveled to many parades, especially McMinnville’s Christmas Parade.
Nella Mae was a collector of many things, especially antiques and dolls. She joined a group called The Dixie Dollers, consisting of many other collectors from all over Middle Tennessee. Her collection was one of the largest in Tennessee.
Along with her husband, she was also active in the American Legion Auxiliary and attended many state and national conventions. She was also known for her cooking skills, especially her famous fried chicken.
Nella Mae was a lifelong resident of Warren County, and passed in 1998 just three days shy of her 93rd birthday, still residing at the Locust Street home. She was the oldest of five children of H.O. and Mollie Casey Roberts, who operated a general store in Depot Bottom. Her only surviving sibling is her youngest sister, McMinnville resident Velma “Doodie” Wood Bratcher. 
Upon completion of the renovations to the home, Ronny and Marta invited friends and family for an open house, giving them the opportunity to see the changes for themselves. It also served as a time for visiting and a reunion for Ronny and his 1965 classmates from City High School.