Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tribute to late Maj. Anthony Robinson (Ret'd)

My friend Ian Martin wrote this moving tribute to Major Anthony Robinson.  I had the pleasure of working with Anthony on the JMA-JEA EXPO trade shows when he was President of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association.  He was a truly patriotic Jamaican with a wonderful sense of humour.  Rest in Peace, Anthony.

Ian Martin's Tribute to Major Anthony R.F. Robinson 
Gauging by reports that I received from two individuals that were close to Major Robinson, I had been hoping for that which surpassed medical science, a miracle so to speak. The miracle that I hoped for did not seem to come about. However, Major Anthony Robinson’s death has granted me an opportunity to pay tribute to yet another member of the Dunstan Robinson (“Brig”) clan. Eight years ago, I penned a tribute to Major Robinson’s younger brother, Major Ian Robinson.

Major Anthony R F Robinson (“Tony”) who was an officer, an entrepreneur, a soldier, a pilot, a sportsman, and a fun guy departed this life on August 7, 2013.  He was another piece of fine fabric cut from the cloth of the Dunstan Family Robinson. He was stickler for high standards.

My first encounter with Tony was in the summer of 1972 less than a year after passing out (graduating) from the Jamaica Defence Force (“JDF”) Training Depot at Newcastle in Jamaica. My first encounter with Major Anthony Robinson is one I will always remember for the simple reason. It was my first experience of having being transported by an aircraft of which he was the first-pilot. Major Robinson then a captain and pilot at the JDF Air Wing had earlier picked up a platoon of soldiers from Alpha Company of the First Battalion Jamaica Regiment (“1JR”) that were on stand-by duty at the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay to man the same airport in light of a threatened strike by its civilian workers.

After his stint at the JDF Air Wing, Major Robinson became the company commander of Bravo Company 1JR. He was also the officer in charge of the JDF’s hockey program. In fact, he once invited me much to my surprise, or better put to my anguish, to training for the JDF hockey team. Beside my affinity for football, I did not want to cross the path with any member of the Dunstan Family Robinson. His father Brigadier Dunstan Robinson former Chief of Staff of the JDF was a senior officer in the JDF when I enlisted. He always wore a serious countenance and went by the nickname “Nero”, a name that spoke volumes. Furthermore, I had earlier experienced a tirade, seasoned with Jamaican French, thrown by his younger brother, Major Ian Robinson, then a captain and commander of the JDF Training Depot. The chiding tirade from Major Ian Robinson was directed to the platoon of recruits that was in training then and of which I had been a member.

However, the fearful feelings I had as a young soldier in the JDF would soon become water under the bridge. Brigadier Dunstan Robinson had made his exit from the JDF and Majors Tony and Ian Robinson were company commanders in 1JR and lived at the 1JR Officers mess of which I was a staff member by virtue of me being Captain Oliver Jobson’s batman. Perception would soon give way to reality. Major Ian Robinson and Captain Jobson were the very best of friends. His batman (Private Plummer) and I were  good friends. The friendship between Major Ian Robinson and Captain Jobson, as well as the friendship between his batman and me would in less than no time draw me close to Major Ian Robinson. Fact of the matter is Major Ian Robinson was the owner some of the best music playing equipment and such equipment, his motorcar and his liquor had ‘no bounds’ relative to his batman and me. Although I had now become comfortable being around Major Anthony Robinson, it was far from the comfort that I felt being around his younger brother, Ian. In the Jamaican parlance, Major Tony just never did come cross “irie like him bredda”.

It was after Major Anthony Robinson had left the JDF and the interactions thereafter with him that I discover the warmth of his heart and the smile that he seldom wore. On many occasions when Major Robinson threw a party, Captain Jobson also a friend of his, would detail me to work in the bar at some of these parties.

Approximately twenty-one year after I left the JDF, I was vacationing In Jamaica and paid Major Anthony Robinson a visit at his business place on Dunrobin Avenue in St. Andrew. As we sat there talking about some of the good old days that we enjoyed while serving in the JDF, I did not fail to remind him of the spine chilling flight that he commanded from Montego Bay to Up Park Camp. His smile and laughter was no different from that of the day when he commanded the flight. As a matter of fact, he related a story to me about him supposedly giving flying lessons to two officers from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (“Constabulary”). He told me that upon questioning the officers as to how they were selected by the Constabulary for the course, he sensed some political curry favoring on their part and their lacking of aptitude for flying. That would sooner than later turned the Constabulary officers’ dream into a nightmare.  According to Major Robinson, after taking the police officers for their first lesson, he performed a few looping maneuvers with the aircraft and the frightened students never showed up for their second lesson. I could not help but laughing.

And speaking of flying, I will never forget the simple illustration that Major Robinson gave me to a complex question that I posed to him as to how an aircraft get up off the ground. Without me going into the details, he explained to me that the whole process involved velocity of the aircraft on the ground and wind activities beneath and above the wings of the aircraft. To illustrate the process to me, he then folded a piece of paper in two and thereafter blowing over the folded crease and one half of the folded paper lifted. I sat there in awe asking myself “Is it that simple?”

At our sitting I learned so much about him. But what I learned from him and about him is one reason that propels me in paying this tribute. As I sat in his office, we also spoke about life after our JDF’s stints. We both agreed on what we thought was big blunder concerning a statement which had been recently issued by the then powers- that- be of the JDF about an incident that occurred while the JDF was conducting an operation in the Kingston Metropolitan Area.

Though time and diplomacy restrict me from mentioning some of the things we spoke about during my visit with him, I would be most remiss, if I failed to mention this. He inquired of me if I had any idea of what had become of a soldier by the name of “Easy, R”. Now, Easy was a soldier who could execute drill movements in grand style and pomp but he was as stubborn and defiant as they come when he was in a certain mood. He was one of those Bravo Company soldiers that would quickly remove their headdress and belt to make ready for a trip to the guard room to be locked up. Easy wore only two countenances that of a smile or that of tears rolling down his cheeks.

After informing him that I heard nothing of Easy since I left the army. I found the Major Robison’s inquiry to be interesting and decided to prolong the inquiry knowing the type of person Easy had been. I said to him using words to the effect “Major that soldier’s (Easy’s) nature and demeanor are as far away from his name is as the east is from the west”. He remarked “you’re telling me, I once had a run-in with him”. Knowing Easy, I was curious to know what the run-in was all about so I did not hesitate to ask Major Robinson the question.

In relating the incident, he told me that Easy was once marched into his office by the Company’s sergeant major for orders based on him Easy being charged for a military infraction. He said from thereon every order given to Easy by the sergeant major seemed to fall on deaf ears, According to him he sat in his office in total disbelief observing Easy’s display of obstinacy. If I had any doubt in my mind as to whom Major Robinson had inquired of me about, his description of that which took place in his office would have quickly displaced such doubt.

My jaws dropped as Major Robinson related the rest of the story to me. He said he ordered everybody out of his office beside Easy and locked his office door, took his shirt off, jumped upon his desk, stared down at Easy and challenged him to an unarmed combat. Noting that Easy did not accept the challenge, he said he jumped down from his desk grabbed Easy by his collars, sat him down in a chair and demanded that Easy tell him what were his problems. He said Easy sat there with tears rolling down his cheeks confiding in him things that really perplexed him Easy. Based on their conversation, he said Easy really had some issues.  In concluding the story, he said he let him Easy know that he was not pleased with his behavior reference his sergeant major and the other NCO’s but he would nevertheless dismiss the charge against him. He suggested to Easy that anytime he wanted to talk about anything that bothered him that he should not be afraid to come and see him no matter where in the JDF he Major Robinson was serving. As a matter of fact, he said he realized from their little chat that Easy was not really a bad soldier and he was instrumental in Easy being enlisted in the next junior NCO’s course. Based on the foregoing, I concluded that Major Robinson possessed sympathizing ears and may even be a psychologist in his own rites.

After the passing of his younger brother, I kept in touch with Major Robinson. We kept abreast of issues and events that impacted the JDF. Whenever and by what means we communicated, he never failed to ask me how the ex-JDF’s personnel here in New York and its surrounding metropolitans were doing.

Major Robinson also made his mark in the civilian world. After he hung up in his military berets, bush-hat, flying helmet, and peak caps, he donned the cap of the Presidents of Jamaica Manufacturers Association (“JMA”) and the Jamaica Men’s Hockey Association. His umbilical cord (navel string) was severed at Marascaux Road (now part of the National Heroes Circle). He was a Wolmerian to the core. He wore the Wolmers’ motto “Age Quod Agis” like a medal of honor and never ceased to utter it when his alma mater hit the air waves in pleasant outcomes.

Approximately three years ago he informed me that he was taking up a job offer from the Government of Jamaica. I wanted to ask him why he took up such an offer but could not garner the nerve. I sincerely believe that the answer to the question I did not asked of him is best summed up in one the many tributes that had been pouring in for him since his passing is one from an ex-soldier that said “served his country well without a doubt”.

Incidentally while formulating this little tribute to Major Robinson, I happened to take time out to say hello via Facebook to a friend of mine in Jamaica, namely Jean Lowrie-Chin, a respected newspaper columnist and public relation specialist. I had no idea she knew Major Robinson. After relating my mission to her, she had nothing but kind words for him. Here is what she said about him. “He was a wonderful man – worked on projects with him when he was JMA President.”

Forty-one years ago, I certainly would have disagreed with Jean Lowrie-Chin based solely on perception. However, today in this case, with evidence to the contrary my perception gives way to reality and must concur with Jean that Major Robinson had been a wonderful man.

To the man affectionately known as “TRob”, you were a noble and a royal guy, and to you I raise my arm offering you a royal salute. Rest in Peace, Major Tony. To his family, friends and relatives, in this your time of grief, “God is standing near and He sees your falling tears” However, it does not end there. Rest assured that “tears are a language God understands”. And so, I leave with you the following lines penned by a hymn-writer.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Ian Martin
Brooklyn, New York.

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