Mr. David Norman Robinson
January 5, 1947 – November 24, 2020
Robinson, David Norman - January 5, 1947 - November 24, 2020.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather and best friend, David Robinson. David died peacefully at home in his sleep. He is survived by his loving wife, Zonda Nellis; his daughter Alexandra Robinson and son-in-law Madhavan Sridhar, his two granddaughters Maya and Veda Madhavan. He is also survived by his sisters Jo-Anne Robinson; Patricia St.Laurent and his brother-in-law David St.Laurent, and his nephew Michael and niece Joanna. He is predeceased by his parents, Dr. J. L. Robinson, and Mary Josephine Robinson (neé Rowan); and his sister-in-law Sue Bailey.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1947, he spent his childhood in the UBC area, as his father was a professor of Geography at University of British Columbia. David went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in English, and a Masters of Arts in English Literature, both from UBC. He founded Talonbooks in 1963, which originally started as a poetry magazine, run out of his parents garage. He went on to publish poetry, plays, fiction, drama, and cookbooks.
In 1980, he met his future wife, emerging Vancouver fashion designer Zonda Nellis at a book launch party. They were introduced by a mutual friend - Celia Duthie - because Zonda loved books and David loved fashion. They were, in every sense of the word, a perfect match. David left Talonbooks in 1984, and began to work in Zonda’s company - Zonda Nellis Design Inc. He helped Zonda build a successful international business that would remain on Granville Street for over 30 years. Zonda’s shop was a Vancouver landmark for her unique designs.
Aside from his professional accomplishments, David always said that his most important job was being a good parent. He took such joy and purpose in being a father, that his love will be surely felt for generations to come. He taught us how to be present, how to love unconditionally and how to parent whole-heartedly, and for that, we are eternally grateful. He was overjoyed to become a grandfather and he loved to read stories to his granddaughters.
In his final years, David struggled with MSA (Multiple System Atrophy) for 8 long years. The illness was rare and untreatable, and eventually left him physically and mentally challenged. The family would like to give special thanks to his caregiver Nita Parinas, who took such good care of him and always found a way to make him laugh.
David loved to travel and was always planning his next trip to an exotic destination. His last trips were to Italy, India, and Egypt - for a cruise down the river Nile. Despite being in a wheelchair towards the end of his life, he never let it slow him down. Through his travels, David made friends all over the world. He was well-known for his generous and helpful spirit, and would eagerly discuss the best restaurants in each and every city he visited.
David loved fashion and was well-known for his unique sense of style and exquisite taste. From Lanvin sneakers to burgundy velvet bomber jackets, he was always the best dressed dad at the playground!
David loved to read poetry and do photography. His favorite poet was Phyllis Webb, his favorite photographer was Bruce Weber, and his favourite singer was Leonard Cohen. He always had a camera in hand, especially during his travels - where he would discover cities through his lens viewfinder. He also loved attending operas in Europe. He was curious about life, and intrigued by people and the human experience. He lived a full life because of this mindset.
David’s legacy was love, kindness, generosity, and a zest for life. He marched to the sound of his own drum and was passionate about life itself, and always widening the horizon. He possessed an infectious joie de vivre and a lively sense of humour. He had a warm smile and a hearty laugh. He truly knew how to enjoy life.
Dear dad, life is not the same without you here, and we miss you terribly. Now we have a guardian angel that we can call by name. Please watch over us and protect us girls.
“If there is any immortality to be had among us human beings, it is certainly only in the love that we leave behind.”
Mr. David Norman Robinson
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February 28, 2021
Over the course of our journeys there enter a small number of individuals who attract and hold us with their energy, creativity, imagination, wit, humour, and more. They leave us with memories of warm and stimulating experiences and the desire for more. David was such a person in our lives. Though we may not see him for many years, the memories we had of our times together were vivid, bright and strong, and never far from the conscious realm. We would speak of him often, remembering a dinner, a party, a conversation. The particular way he told a story, the mischief in his eyes, the twisting wit, bringing on that signature laugh and all summed up by the smile. The photos above catch it and it’s as if he is still here. He celebrated life each and every day and shared that love with everyone who entered his orb. It’s true to say…..there was no one else like him. We miss him, but will continue to celebrate him as we remember all the moments he left us with. Our deepest condolences to Zonda, Alexandria and the family.
February 12, 2021
I like to talk to you because I like to believe you are with us...
Your smile ,
your disarming goodness and your deep value for friendship,
your class in being yourself,
your fashion t shirts and jackets showing your terrific sense of life, despite your illness..,
your desire for being always a marvellous husband ,father and friend
will accompany me and will certainly be a worthy example.
Ciao mio caro amico!
January 22, 2021
Dear Zonda and Alexandra,
My deepest condolences on David's passing. I have fond memories of hanging out with all of you at your home in Kerrisdale, way back.
Thinking of you and wishing you comfort and healing from this loss.
January 14, 2021
First, let me renew the deep condolences I have already conveyed to you upon your and your family's grievous loss.
Secondly, I think all his friends would agree that David brought such light, happiness and friendship into their lives and displayed such dynamism, adventurousness, curiosity and courage in his own as immeasurably to enrich the lives of one and all, but leaving them commensurately impoverished at his death.
Happily, to sustain us as we seek to come to terms with his untimely passing, we can look to - and, in due course, treasure - all the wonderful memories that David has left us with.
For me, primarily this must mean your attendance of my landmark birthday celebration in Rome, a couple of years ago, notwithstanding the condition in which David found himself undertaking the mammoth journey involved, of course lovingly supported by your wonderful self. I was made fully aware how enormously privileged I was to have you with me when accompanying David back to your hotel, following the lovely farewell dinner to which you had so kindly invited me, as the Roman cobblestones proved to be at their most unforgiving for a wheelchair user. Bravo, David. Brava, Zonda.
Well done indeed, David, for a life marvellously well lived. Please know, Zonda, that you and your family are very much in my thoughts and prayers as you seek to come to terms with the terrible loss of such a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and brother.
With much love,
January 5, 2021
January 3, 2021
Dear Zonda & family,
I am saddened to learn of David's passing and offer my sincere condolences, warm thoughts and prayers to all of you. I remember fondly meeting with you and David on personal shopping excursions in Toronto and Vancouver. It was always a joy to catch up over drinks at the Windsor Arms, giggle over the finely diced veggies at George and savour your warm hospitality and friendship over a dish of pasta at your favourite little Italian restaurant in Vancouver. David's warmth, generosity, quick wit, flair and kindness will be greatly missed. May your many happy memories of David bring you comfort and solace at this sad time.
Sincerely, Kathy Wilkie
January 3, 2021
Always engaging and witty, full of infectious vitality, curiosity about people and places, generous to a fault, cordial and hospitable with all.
Sophisticated international businessman, savvy in culture and travel, bon vivant, epicurean, and scout for the best restaurants in town! The book business taught him to evaluate and critique
Dramatic in his expression, opinionated for sure, and thru those ALL CAPS in his cryptic emails, you got the message!
Handsome and tan like an Italian designer, with his casual chic style, affable manners and easy conversation.
Talented at whatever he touched, book publishing, marketing Zonda Nellis Designs, taking fashion shots and designing publicity, co-running an international business, dealing in visionary expansion of store with brinkmanship par excellence!
Exceptional in sales and public relations thanks to his ‘don de gentes’ as the Spanish call it. This gift also attracted many friends and gained their admiration for his perseverance in face of difficulties—be they health or business. He knew what he wanted and where to go for it!
We miss him greatly, as part of the couple he formed with Zonda to run an extraordinary creative business together and build a family devoted to daughter Alexandra. We got to know David better on the meet ups with them during their many trips to Spain and Italy, and our visits to Vancouver. As a friend he was big hearted, kind and loyal. We appreciate his immediate acceptance and warmth towards my husband, Grover, with whom we shared a common love for fashion, opera, books and travel. The final years were difficult, but he remained courageous and gracious to the end. F & G
I can only add that David welcomed me to the quartet as if I’d always been there and a treasured friend. I dearly miss our conversations and passion for daily swims tho’ we never managed to coincide in the pool. Yes, I will dearly miss David.
December 22, 2020
I worked with David when I edited Criteria, an art magazine based in Vancouver (1974-78), published at Talonbooks. He was a talented, curious, generous publisher, very commited to literature and art from the west coast. I was very sorry to hear that he suffered -and hope his body-soul has found peace. Condolences to Zonda and the family. Sending love...❤️♥️
December 20, 2020
With Sincere Condolences to Zonda, Alexandra & Maddy on the loss of David
We last saw David a few years ago when we had a most enjoyable & memorable drink together in Venice watching the sunset on a beautiful terrace over looking the Canal Grande. He was such a charismatic & engaging ,
stylish man with a quick wit & a warm laugh ,and always an enthusiastic& adventuresome traveler He had such great 'Joie de Vivre' & he loved Zonda & Alexandra dearly & he will be greatly missed
With Heartfelt Condolences
from Aline & Enrico Dobrzensky
December 17, 2020
My dear grandpa, I am so sorry for the loss of you. The only good grandpa that I ever had.I will always love you and your fun ideas 💡. I wish you all the very best and loving these wonderful me
I also know that you loved me and poetry,nature, art 🖼, and loving the world for its life it gave you.
I will miss you so much 🥺
Your lovely granddaughter
,Maya Madhavan 👴🏻🧍🏼♂️👨👧🐶🐩🦮🐕🦺🐕🐾
December 16, 2020
We at Talonbooks were very sorry to hear of David's passing.
David Robinson founded Talon alongside a few other fellow poets in 1963 while he was a high school student at University Hill Secondary School in Vancouver. At that time, it was a magazine run out of David’s parent’s garage. David published Talon’s first book, fireweed by Ken Belford, in 1967, while he was attending the University of British Columbia. David grew the Talonbooks press until 1984, when he left to join his wife Zonda Nellis at Zonda Nellis Design Inc.
While David published poetry, fiction, and drama at Talon, many will also remember him as a pioneer of Vancouver cookbook publishing, with his bestselling Susan Mendelson and Umberto Menghi titles.
Many of the books David published at Talon are still in print on the Talonbooks list. We remember him often, handling the books he published and admiring the design and savoir faire of an old catalogue.
Fifty-seven years after David initially founded Talon, we are very proud to continue the work he started, and hope this icon of Canadian publishing, Talonbooks, serves as memorial to David Robinson for many decades to come.
—Kevin and Vicki Williams, and the team at Talonbooks
December 16, 2020
I still don't believe it.
I have so many memories of you and David that I can't even write them. He was too good and generous a Man. Thanks to you and David I spent some unforgettable moments in my little life.
I miss him so much and I'm too sad. I hope one day to be able to hug you and remember our moments together.
December 14, 2020
I'm so sorry to hear about David. I was one of his final projects at Talonbooks in 1984. I had pitched an anthology of Canadian drama, and David was very encouraging. With his help and Karl Siegler's we launched it, and 35 years later Modern Canadian Plays, in its 5th edition, is still in print. David was a great champion of Canadian literature in all its forms, and all of us who care about our culture owe him a lot. He was a wonderful guy, smart and funny and engaging. And, as has been pointed out, an uber-dapper dresser. Zonda and family, I'm deeply sorry for your loss.
December 12, 2020
Zonda, you may not remember me but I am Denise Taylor's stepdaughter Michele and I have lovely memories of you from the past as being such a wonderful friend of Denise's and such an icon of inspiration for me. I just wanted to add me condolences and my respects.
With great regard,
December 10, 2020
David, your laughter always brought a smile to my face. It was an honour and a privilege to travel the world with you and Zonda.
I hope that I provided you with comfort and warmth amongst your days, in exchange for all of the light and happiness you brought to mine.
Thank you for the all of the memories.
December 10, 2020
David will be missed dearly by all those that he touched but more so by those that he knew as his family and friends. To be held by David was filled with compassion and unconditional.
Years ago, while David was battling Cancer and I was working for AMAN stationed in Bhutan we agreed to hoist prayer flags, offer prayers and butter lamps to aid in his speedy recovery. It seemed to have worked then.
On December 07, 2020 at Kitchu Lakhung, Bhutan’s most ancient and sacred temple we arranged to have its Lama offer a day of prayers and 1000 butter lamps in an effort to dispel the darkness, encouraging his soul to pass into a Devine afterlife.
Forever in our hearts
December 9, 2020
Love you dad...miss you so much
December 9, 2020
My darling husband who I loved being with.
Anywhere and everywhere.
December 8, 2020
Three of us (David, JAR and Patricia)
December 8, 2020
I have a special photo of us, David and JAR. Now all I have are memories of our past.
John Van Burek
December 7, 2020
I will always be so grateful to David for spending most of the night telling my wife, Anne, all the details of the film "Dressed to Kill," while I was on my way back to Toronto with our baby son, who was ill, and she was worried sick. Together, they did serious damage to a bottle of rum. David had come to visit us in Toronto but obviously, we were in no state to be good hosts. As my first publisher (of my translations of Michel Tremblay's plays) he was a dear and faithful friend. When I finally directed one of Tremblay's plays at the Arts Club Theatre, David offered to put me up and to show me Vancouver, including the cherry blossoms. Whenever I see cherry blossoms, I think of him. John Van Burek
December 6, 2020
For many many years we would never travel to Europe without checking with David for tips. He and Zonda were so very familiar with London and Venice particularly. He will be missed in so many ways.