In Memory

William Robinson

William Robinson

Date of Birth:  12-18-1948

Date of Death:  10-11-1975

Age at Death:  26

I am Susan Robinson, Bill’s sister and thanks to Mary Alice Salisbury who found me on Facebook, I found out about your class website and was asked to give some information about my brother Bill after he graduated from Southwest.

Bill received athletic scholarships to play football and decided on KU. He went to KU fall of 1967 and as Steve Helphingstein pointed out on his post, was playing behind John Riggins.  Bill wasn’t very happy at KU-not only with football but he just didn’t like being at a large University.  Bill gave up his full ride to KU, and transferred in January of 1968 for second semester his freshman year, to a small school-Graceland College (now University).  Graceland is located in Lamoni, Iowa, which was also my Dad’s home town and the college is affiliated with our church.  Growing up, Bill was very familiar with Graceland and the small town of Lamoni. He always had liked it there when we would visit my Dad’s family there. Both my parents graduated from Graceland as well.

Soon after transferring Bill met the love of his life, Pamela Sickles - ironically from Lawrence, KS.  Bill used to joke about how he had to leave Lawrence to find his girlfriend in Iowa who was from Lawrence. Bill and Pam were married on August 30, 1969 after their sophomore years at Graceland. They were married in Lawrence, KS.  I do need to say, that contrary to Steve Helphingstein’s memory of not being at their wedding, he was in fact IN the wedding party (we have the pictures to prove it, Steve - think in powder blue tuxes). I asked Pam today if Steve was the Best Man or my brother Dale and she really thought it was Steve.

Bill graduated from Graceland in 1971 and on July 1st, they had their only child, their son Shane. He is now happily married and has 4 kids of his own.

Bill got his first job teaching and coaching football at Liberty Junior High School that same August. Bill had very successful football seasons coaching, but by the end of the school year in 1974, he had been having headaches and thought maybe it was from stress of working with all the kids. He decided to take a job with Business Men’s Assurance (BMA). Pam said he was doing very well in his new position, but the headaches were getting worse and he started having some blurred vision.  After several tests at the hospital, it was determined that it was Brain Cancer with the tumor sitting on the optic nerve. He was told then he had only 11 months to live. He was at BMA for about 10 months as he became too ill a little later to maintain his position there.

Bill died at their home in Liberty 10 months after his original diagnosis, at age 26, on October 11, 1975, surrounded by Pam and the rest of our family.

Bill’s funeral was held in Liberty and per his request, he was buried in Lamoni at Rosehill Cemetery in the family plot, now along with my Dad who died of Melanoma in December, 1999 and my Mom who passed away in May of 2011.

Bill was truly loved by his family and friends. He and Pam were so very happy and really just starting out with their young son Shane, who was only 4 at the time of Bill’s death. Pam was left to raise Shane by herself and Shane without really knowing his father. As you can well imagine, everyone was devastated when we found out about Bill’s cancer, the prognosis and the short time he had left.  Bill did have chemo and surgery but neither yielded him anymore time.

Bill had a wonderful, special bond with my Dad along with my brother Dale-the 3 of them together almost certain to have a lot of fun and laughter. My Dad and Bill had a wonderful sense of humor and growing up they spent a lot of time together-obviously sports was a big connection, and of course those summers painting together when the boys were teenagers.

Bill was creative and fun growing up as a kid.  He was always thinking about what to do next. He would build fun things in the basement for us kids to play on, I specifically remember him building a plane one time. Not only could he think of fun stuff to do, he could put a plan together by himself and build it.  

He loved his years at Southwest and all the great friends and fun times there. Besides sports that enjoyed, he loved singing in the choir and playing the role of Wally Womper in the school operetta, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. From that role Bill actually named our dog back then “Wally”, who he received as a graduation present. Mom and Dad had Wally for many years.

After reading all the wonderful things that some of you wrote in his Memory page, I can see how much he touched some of your lives as I am sure so many of you did his.  Steve H., you made me laugh and cry reading your wonderful post-especially laughing of the thoughts on the  2 Mom’s. You were his best friend and obviously have some special memories (except forgetting you were in his wedding smiley).

About 10 years ago, after my Dad was gone, my Mom went to Independence to have her car serviced at a place a friend suggested-never had been to this service station before.  The young man that took care her car, Mom said, was kind of big gentle “kid” and very kind. He asked Mom for her name and she said Mrs. Robinson. He said, you know I once had a coach in junior high by that name.  My Mom just listened and he went on to tell her that this Coach Robinson was the only reason he stayed in school. He said he was a fat kid then, didn’t fit in, very shy and that this Coach Robinson touched his life so much by just his kind words, his listening and his encouragement to stay in school- that he stayed in school, graduated high school-got married, had kids and now owned the service station. He also went on to say that this Coach had died really young unfortunately and how saddened he was when he had heard that news.  My Mom, who I am sure had tears coming down her eyes, told him that the “Coach Robinson” was her son.  You never know who you will run into with a connection to your life. One never realizes what impact you might have on someone. This was such a sweet story how Bill touched the life of another thru his kindness and listening and of which I am sure Bill never realized his impact.

Sometime a few weeks before my brother’s death, and Bill not really talking much at that point, he saw my Mom with tears in her eyes and he told her, don’t worry Mom, Have Faith, the sun will shine again.

This is written on Bill’s headstone.

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06/07/16 04:17 PM #10    

Donald Winett

I got to know Bill when we played 8th grade football for the Golden Bears. He was such a nice guy. A friend to everyone. We thought we were blocking so well for him but he was so big he just powered through the line. I spent most of High School dating a girl from Center so wasn't around much. But always considered Bill a friend. I moved to Tulsa, Ok in 1972. I remember coming back to visit family and friends, not sure what year, and was told Bill had passed away from a brain tumor. Just shock and reality hit me right in the face. I've thought of Bill from time to time and it always goes back to 8th grade football. What a great time we had. I guess this is where you add, enjoy every day. You never know when it's the last one.

06/07/16 08:19 PM #11    

Stephen Helphingstine

Even today, I  still get choked up and teary eyed  when I think about my friendship with Bill Robinson.  Bill was the most creative and fun person to be around I've ever met and I still miss him.

I believe I first  met Bill  while in  8th grade  at  Bingham Jr.  We both had a knack for acquiring "conference cards"  (the equivalent of being sent to the principals office)  -   usually for nefarious deeds like acting out in class room,  having our shirt tails out or singing  "Duke of Earl" while waiting in lunch line.   So, we spent many hilarious hours sitting together on  "shame row"  in the school office area.  ( As I recall  Jerrry Keller,  Rick McDermot,  Tim Kite,  Doug Noblet  et al,  spent a lot of time there with us also wink‚Äč)

Bill's house  (79th and Holmes)  was just a few blocks from mine and  we spent many hours just hanging out at each other's house,  so much so,  that we  became like part of each other's family.  In fact,  our mother's were so used to our presence, neither one felt any hesitation scolding either of us.  Bill swore they must have listened to the same  mother hood  "bitch tapes"  because they sounded so much alike! smiley

During the summers  we would work for Bill's dad, Coach Robinson painting houses.  Coach Robinson painted houses every summer to supplement his teacher's  salary.  I have to say coach Robinson paid us very generously considering we spent a lot of time goofing around and pulling pranks on each other

I feel priveliged to have been Bill's friend during  those years.   As everyone knows  Bill was  kind hearted, and friendly to everybody,   he was one of the most popular kids in school  and being a star athlete didn't hurt!

After graduation  Bill and I  planned  a  grand road trip to drive as far as we could go in Mexico - S.  America. We built a small trailer to pull behind his car  loaded up the ole 49 Chevy?  and headed South.   We got as far as Table Rock  Lake in S.  Missouri before his car broke down.   We camped out a few days and limped back home.

Later that summer  we headed off to KU (again in the 49 chevy) with dreams of football glory.  We were supposed to be room mates, but to our great dissappointment that didn't work out.  In those days freshman couldn't play varsity so we were basically used as tackling dummies for the varsity.

As luck would have it  there was another freshman there  from Hays Kansas,  just as big and strong and fast and talented as Bill and he also played fullback.   His name was John Riggins  (yes, that John Riggins,  future Pro football Hall of Fame Superbowl Fullback for the Jets and Redskins)   I would contend that Bill could have been a star fullback for any college team in America but he had the misfortune of  being in wrong place,  wrong time with the other best player in the country.

Bill became discouraged during Sophomore year and transferred  to Lamoni IA.  By that time he was dating his furture wife to be Pam (Anderson?)  Bill & Pam  visited us a couple of times at KU  and  Cynthia and I visited them in Lamoni.   Bill had  formed  a  Rock Band  that he was the lead singer for -  remember  Jim Morrison and "Riders on the Storm" ?  -  Bill's  band  was  really fantastic!   I thought they would have a great future but I can't recall what eventually happened with it. 

Junior year  Cynthia and I were married  and  Bill was my best man.   Bill and Pam got married soon after but I can't  really recall going to a wedding,  maybe they eloped?   I've lost track of Pam since Bill's death.  They had a son and I think also a daughter.

Cynthia and I had graduated from MU and moved on to the farm when we got the news from Bill that he had brain cancer.  We visited him a couple of times in Libertyville hospital,  he was on chemo and not feeling so good.  He got out of the hospital but he never fully recovered.

I know that in the final years Bill was having a difficult time,  he tried selling life insurance (irony) and he assisted his dad coaching football  but his stamina was low, he felt  sick all the time  and he was depressed.

I remember my dad calling me to tell me Bill had passed away  he was crying becasue he really liked Bill and he knew how close we where.  I was in the middle of a weather crisis here at the farm and I couldn't get away to attend his funeral.   I still don't know today how I feel about missing his funeral, it would have been hard,  we were young,  it was tragic.

So many memories!   I could go on and on about  "Adventures with Bill"   - must be getting old!   smiley



























06/08/16 12:38 PM #12    

Jenifer Hearne (Megaris)

Stephen, thank you so much for sharing your friendship with Bill. I remember the Bingham days as well as the Southwest days. Bills was indeed a great guy and everyone liked him. 

06/08/16 04:05 PM #13    

Doug Noblet


Very nice shared memories. Thanks for that post.  I, as with so many others, had special memories and times shared with Bill, though few were probably as close friends as you, Steve.

07/06/16 03:32 PM #14    

Doug Noblet

Thank you, Susan.  Truly, many fond memories of Bill through Bingham and Southwest.  I appreciate you sharing.

07/07/16 07:22 AM #15    

Elyse (Brooke) Weinstein (Goren (Kroeger))

Bill was one of my favorite classmates. So very sorry to hear this. Brooke (Elyse Weinstein) Kroeger

07/08/16 11:48 AM #16    

Carole Kidwell (Wall-Simmons)

Two great posts - Susan and Steve - about a great guy. I remember hearing of his passing and was shocked and saddened.

07/09/16 05:29 PM #17    

Larry Haith

When Bill came to S.W. High School, he lived at the corner of 79th & Holmes, 2 doors East of me. We became friends immediately. Bill was always a great person, as was his family. He and his dad talked me into trying out for the football team. I did the "2 a day", through the summer, because of him.

Just remember the good. It was all good. A real gentleman. His memory is for a blessing.

07/10/16 12:30 PM #18    

Stephen Helphingstine

Susan,  thank you so much for your touching post about your brother Bill.

Also,  thank you for filling in for  some of my "memory gaps"   (Cynthia believes that I have many of these! smiley)

On the other hand  "powder blue tuxes" ?  maybe my brain was repressing a painful image!  smiley

07/28/16 09:51 PM #19    

Janet Martin (Migliazzo)

Bill was one of my first crushes, in junior high at Bingham. I wore his lettermans sweater. He was a very nice guy and I'm so sorry to hear of his very young passing. RIP Bill!

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