Theodore Roosevelt Robinson
September 9, 1929 – June 27, 2020
Theodore Roosevelt Robinson 9 September 1929 – 27 June 2020
My dad’s motto was “EEDP” – Effort, Enthusiasm, Desire and Pride.
He was sharp, active, decisive, and supremely self-confident. He said things like, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” If another driver cut him off in traffic, he yelled “Idiot!” At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, my mom and I started calling him “Bear.”
My dad was born in Henderson, NC, in 1929. About a month later, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. His dad owned and operated a car repair shop, but times were hard. When my dad was a teenager, he started working part-time for his dad. In his spare time, my dad enjoyed hunting, reading, and riding motorcycles.
My dad was too young to serve in World War II. He graduated from high school in 1947, and got a clerical job with the FBI in Washington, DC, several months later. Before long, an FBI employee named Evelyn Osborne caught his eye. As he later put it, he chased her till she caught him. They got married in 1948.
By then, my dad had left the FBI to work as a mechanic for his dad. My dad had also enlisted in the North Carolina National Guard. Over the next two years, he rose to the rank of sergeant.
In 1950, my dad left his dad’s car repair shop and the National Guard, and both my parents resumed working for the FBI in Washington, DC. My dad also enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve.
In 1952, my parents left the FBI for the last time and moved to Biloxi, MS, which was my mom’s home town. My dad started working as an insurance underwriter. A year later, I was born.
By late 1953, my dad knew that he wanted a career in the Army. He left the U.S. Army Reserve as a sergeant first class, and enlisted in the Regular Army as a master sergeant.
My dad also knew that he wanted to become an officer. In 1956, he completed the Infantry Officer Candidate Course at Fort Benning, GA, and he was commissioned as a second-lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Although my dad was trained to command an Infantry unit, it was the Military Intelligence branch of the Army that interested him the most. After he left Fort Benning in 1956, all of his training and assignments were related to Military Intelligence.
My dad was subsequently stationed at: the Presidio of Monterey, CA; Seoul, Korea; Norfolk, VA; Fort Holabird, MD; Bangkok, Thailand; Pasadena, CA; first Saigon and then Quang Ngai Province in South Vietnam; Killeen Base, TX; Fort Holabird, MD; Seoul, Korea; and Fort Hood, TX. My mom and I accompanied him everywhere except Korea and South Vietnam.
For promotions, many of the men who competed with my dad were college graduates, and some of them were West Point graduates. Nevertheless, he did very well. He was promoted to: first-lieutenant in 1959; captain in 1961; major in 1966; and lieutenant-colonel in 1970.
My dad also received a number of medals and awards, including: the Legion of Merit; the Bronze Star; the Air Medal; and the Army Commendation Medal (which he received three times). From the South Vietnamese Army, my dad received the Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, and the Honor Medal First Class.
The highlight of my dad’s military career, and of his entire life, was serving in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1967. He had no qualms about defending South Vietnam against communist aggression; he did what he had been trained to do; and he exceled at what he did. I don’t doubt that, while he was stationed in Quang Ngai Province, many more enemy soldiers lost their lives because it was my dad, rather than someone else, who was the intelligence advisor assigned to the South Vietnamese Army’s 2nd Infantry Division.
Yet my dad acknowledged that there was a dark side to war. He often spoke about his experiences in Vietnam, and countless times he told me the story of a young Vietnamese woman who left a long line of refugees, had her baby, and got back in the line. Even when my dad was 90 years old, he told me that he sometimes had “night terrors” about Vietnam.
My dad retired from the Army in 1973, when he was 44. He had various jobs after that, but only one satisfied him. That was when he was a guide for the Scenic Boat Tour in Winter Park, FL, in the 1980s and 1990s.
I moved to the Orlando, FL area in 1979, and my parents moved here in 1982, after my first son was born. Over the next 18 years, my wife, our two sons and I shared many happy family occasions with my parents. My sons also spent a great deal of time individually with my parents, and my parents were extremely proud of them. Then, in 2000, my mom died of cancer.
My dad lived alone for the last 20 years of his life, and he missed my mom terribly. Early on, to help pass the time, he often rode his motorcycle. However, in 2006, a car struck his motorcycle and he was thrown to the ground. Although he made a full recovery, he never again rode a motorcycle. Instead, he spent increasing amounts of time reading novels, listening to music on TV, and watching old movies.
Before I retired at the end of 2011, he and I ran a couple of miles at a nearby track three times a week, and went out to dinner twice a week. But by then I had moved farther away, and in the years that followed I got busier, and he became physically weaker. Some years ago we stopped running, and last year we stopped going out to dinner. However, I visited him once a week, and called to check on him on the other days.
Although my dad occasionally fell in his home, he refused to accept a power lift recliner that I offered him, or to wear a medical alert button around his neck. He also tried to avoid using his walker. He was determined to stay tough for the rest of his life.
On 2 June 2020, after my dad repeatedly failed to answer his phone, I went over to his house and found him lying on the floor. He appeared to have had a stroke. I called 911, and he remained in care until he died on 27 June. At least he had lived long enough to see his second great-granddaughter, who was born eight months earlier.
Of course, I’ll always remember my dad first as my dad, and second as a soldier. When I was a kid, he was larger than life, like John Wayne in the movies. While I was growing up, he taught me how to do a lot of things, such as: tying my shoelaces; riding a bike; playing baseball; firing a gun; and riding a motorcycle. He paid my way through college. He always did his best for me, and I’ll always be grateful.
But my dad wanted people to remember him as an American soldier, and I can honestly say that he was the best I ever met.