HANNIBAL -- Born in Sydney, Australia, Kate Roth used her nationality to break into a competitive career.
A former nurse, Roth spent the first part of her life experiencing as many cultures as possible. After building a family and settling down, she found a second career as a voice-over actor.
Roth caught the travel bug at 16 when she went to Germany as an exchange student. In college, she spent every summer trekking across Europe or the U.S.
"Once I turned 18, I think I went away at least a couple times a year," Roth said. "Sometimes I'd meet up with another friend from Australia, but mostly I was traveling by myself, staying in youth hostels, meeting a whole bunch of people."
Travel lights a fire for her, and, years later, she can go back instantly to a trip she took as a young adult, hitchhiking through Israel and into Jordan.
"I knew a few words, but I didn't really speak the language. I had a travel book that had some words in the back," she said. "The guy who gave us a ride offered us a place to stay with his family. We went to this little village, and they were so excited to have two white people there."
Roth gave her camera to some children in the village, and they offered her a scarf to wear. The entire village came through the home in which she and her companion were staying to meet them.
"That helped me to grow, to become more understanding of different cultures," she said. "I realized that our way of thinking is not the only way, and it's not always the best way."
Roth received her nursing degree from the University of Technology in Sydney and worked at hospitals in Sydney and the United Kingdom before landing a job in the trauma intensive care unit at a hospital in Savannah, Ga. At the time, the city had the second highest murder per capita rate in the country.
"We had gunshots and stabbings every single day," she said. "There was a steep learning curve, but I got to the point where I was in charge of the unit."
The experience taught her how deadly humanity can be, but she found hope in seeing the love with which families in such gruesome situations rallied around.
"I hope I can use these stories as examples for my kids, reasons why they should be nicer, kinder to others," she said.
The next life
It was always her intention to return to Australia and settle down after a few years in the states. The plan changed when she met John Roth, a general surgeon at the same hospital and the man who would become her husband. They were introduced via a mutual friend and have been married since 1998.
The travel continued, but now Roth had a permanent travel partner. Following John's career, they spent periods in Huntington, W.Va., the Quad Cities, Jacksonville, Ill., and Charlotte, N.C., before settling in Hannibal when John took a position at Hannibal Regional Hospital. They have three children, and as a family, they have traveled to Australia, Indonesia and India.
After the children were born, Roth became a stay-at-home mom and later volunteered at their schools as a nurse.
"Flipping through a book of college courses, trying to figure out what I was going to be in my next life, I came across ‘Introduction to Voice-Over,' " she said.
In the heart of the Midwest, Roth's Australian accent is a rare commodity. While living in Jacksonville, two business owners had approached her to do voice-over work for their commercials.
"I went off to Chicago to do a course," she said. "Part of the course was that they helped you produce a demo. I was in a recording studio in Chicago, and the sound engineer offered me my first job before I even left."
As the industry has largely shifted online, Roth set up a studio in her home and has been able to do most of her work there. Occasionally, she will return to Chicago for gigs. Roth softens her Australian accent when needed, and she can also do British and Midwest accents.
"I got a Land Rover commercial for part of the East Coast a couple years ago," she said. "I did the audition with a British accent. I still do some work for them, and they have no idea I'm Australian."
Roth has been doing voice-over work since 2010 and has turned it into a full-time career, auditioning every day. She has worked for Land Rover, McDonald's and many other large companies.
She recently took a position as an on-air personality for a new Hannibal and Quincy area radio station, V104.3 FM KVMO. She is on the air from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
"I hope to continue doing this," she said. "It taps into my creative nature and gives me an outlet."
Staff Writer Matt Dutton will bring you a story detailing the life of a local resident each Monday.