WESTERLY — After putting her hand on a stone outside the Westerly Armory and whispering, “I will restore you,” in 1990, Roberta Mudge Humble, born and raised in Westerly, has worked tirelessly to keep that promise.
A retired professor of English at CCRI and resident of Warwick, Humble has devoted much of her life to the preservation and restoration of the armory, as well as consulting in the restoration of the state’s 17 other armory sites.
The Westerly Armory, which shares space with the Westerly Band, hosts music performances, weddings, and private functions, in addition to offering museum guests a priceless glimpse of Westerly’s past. The museum, which is free of charge, houses military armaments and memorabilia, as well as period clothing, photographs, and items with special connections to Westerly.
In order to keep the armory, which she affectionately calls “Old Soldier,” alive, Humble created a collection of Rhode Island facts, trivia, and even songs, which she proudly sells in the armory’s gift shop, online and at several independent book and gift shops throughout the state.
She said she loves sharing her Rhode Island books and trivia.
“These are happy things. There’s no greater joy than making people happy. This is the happy part of Rhode Island,” Humble said. “It is my joy to get to know Rhode Island better. And it is my joy to go around the state delivering these, because there is nothing more beautiful than driving this state.”
Humble began her journey to restore the armory a full 10 years before learning her great-grandfather was the armory’s first “armor.” And she said she’s proud that “My grandfather was one of the stone-cutters who helped to build it.”
“I feel protective of it,” she said. “This is the best part of America. This is what makes us free.”
In addition to creating well-known books and games to support the armory, including The RIght to Crow: A Look at RI’s First, Bests, and Uniques (2006), and Little Rhody & the Other 49 (2011), Humble has taken the helm of fundraising, event management and communication with the public.
The first of her new creations, Secret Rhode Island, highlights 58 not-to-be-missed locations around the state such as Fort Wetherill in Jamestown and the Delekta Pharmacy in Warren. The cards offer photos and fun facts about each location.
The second, a family trivia game called I Am Rhode Island, puts players’ knowledge of Little Rhody to the test. Players respond to challenge clues such as “I am the first college in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts” (answer: Johnson & Wales) or “I am the British ship that was taken by armed Rhode Islanders” (HMS Gaspee).
Seasoned Rhody trivia vets can also indulge in bonus questions related to each challenge.
Rebecca Omerhi, of Woonsocket, who dropped by the armory to purchase both Secret Rhode Island and I Am Rhode Island, as gifts, said, “I thought they would be a great present for my twelve-year-old grandson for Christmas — and then I thought, well, gee, I could give one to the family, too. A different one.”
Omerhi, who admits she only drives back roads, nurtures an interest in the history of the state and said she is excited to share these unique items with her family this Christmas.
I Am Rhode Island ($7.99) and Secret Rhode Island ($11.99) can be found online at www.westerlyarmory.com, and at physical locations including Green Ink, Barrington Books, Allie’s Tack Shop, and Westerly’s own Savoy Bookshop and Café.