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SCOTT DREYER: Tribute to A Great American (I): Robert Robison (1927- 2021)

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly. – Leviticus 19:31

The term “The Greatest Generation” has entered the American lexicon, and one of their number was the beloved Robert “Bob” Robison, whom we lost on June 24, 2021. 

Robison– “Uncle Bob” to me and many others–was born on Easter Sunday in 1927 in Sellersburg, Indiana, the second of six children. His birth year gave him a childhood from ages three to thirteen in the Great Depression. 

Robison turned 18 in April 1945. That was the same month FDR died of a stroke and Hitler took his life. Looking to serve his country and protect freedom, Robison promptly enlisted in the US Marine Corps. On May 8, Germany surrendered thus ending WWII in Europe, but war still raged in Asia. 

As a new marine, Robison was on a troop transport ship heading to the Pacific theater when news reached them of Japan’s surrender on September 2. 

Harry Truman was president at that time, and the US soon dispatched forces to China to help prop-up the anti-communist Nationalist government and keep the communists under Mao Zedong from coming to power in the Chinese Civil War. Since Robison and his unit were already in East Asia and Japan had surrendered, they were sent to the Chinese city of Tienjin as a part of the “China Marines” force, where he stayed until 1948. 

An avid learner, while there he developed a Mandarin vocabulary up to several hundred words and phrases.

After his service overseas, he was based at Camp Pendleton, CA. It was in the Golden State that he once hitchhiked with a friend to Long Beach and there met and began to date the love of his life, Bobbie. (She was the daughter of a man who played in the original Walt Disney orchestra that performed the soundtracks for The Painted Desert and some other big classics.)

Robison Wedding: July 4, 1948

True-blue Americans, Bob and Bobbie wed on July 4, 1948, with the groom and groomsmen in Marine uniforms. (Disclosure: their example inspired my wife and me to set our wedding date for July 4 also – more than four decades later.)

As newlyweds, their 2,000-mile, cross-country trip from the West Coast back to Bob’s home farm in Indiana has become the stuff of family legend. Their car was so old and ramshackle, the windshield wiper control did not work. So, while driving through rainstorms, Bob manned the steering wheel while Bobbie thrust her hand through a hole in the dashboard and manually moved the wiper blades. The car had no radio, so they whiled away the miles and hours singing You Are My Sunshine to each other. 

Running out of money, they finally eased their car onto Bob’s parents’ farm, with a gas gauge on “Empty” and a whopping 37-cents in his pocket. 

The young couple experienced tragedy, losing one son within one day of childbirth. Their other five sons all have successful careers and beautiful families of their own, and the couple essentially “adopted” a student who came from Australia to study high school in the US one year.

Robison Farm: Greenwood, Indiana

The Scotch-Irish Robison family has been farming in the US since the late 1700s, so farming was in Uncle Bob’s blood. An innovator and entrepreneur, he was one of the first farmers in Indiana to use no-till and cover crops. He was so skilled at farming and spotting good investments, he eventually owned land in six counties. 

(To be continued)

Robison’s obituary in the Indianapolis Star

– Scott Dreyer

Scott Dreyer in his classroom.




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