Dave Robinson passes away but forever friends always in play

April 26, 2022

Friends are forever - A close friend, Dr. Dave Robinson, who moved inside the concentric circles of coaches and church people and educators from Caesar Rodney and Cape Henlopen, passed away at home Sunday night surrounded by his family. Back in 2004, Dave and I were standing behind the batting cage watching Cape softball play Caravel for the state championship. It was Memorial Day weekend, and Cape head coach Bill Cordrey, a Vietnam veteran, was wearing a flag pin on his Cape coaching shirt. Dave said to me, “I want you to know I’m nominating you for the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame. I’m doing it because of what you do for kids. It’s always kids first with you, and I respect that.” I said to Dave, “Please, say no more. I was inducted five minutes ago. The moment a friend like you said, ‘I’m nominating you for the hall of fame,’ I was in. I've already left the banquet. Now let's get back to the ball game.” Cape lost that game 1-0, and I wanted so badly for the Silver Fox Bill Cordrey to win a state championship, but sports are the penultimate smackdown arena.   

Eighteen years later, Bud Hitchens called me in his low-key delivery: “You're finally going into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame.” I told Bud, “I went in 18 years ago at a softball game at Sports at the Beach.” There is a banquet Thursday, May 12. I will go to the podium with a long lifetime of sports experiences behind me and go carbon 14 half-life and start my story in 2004. During Dave’s tenure as Cape superintendent, his impact on sports included bringing in coaches Bill Collick, Kate Windett, Steve Re and Matt Lindell, and upgrading Champions Stadium to turf, bleachers and lights. 

On a blistering-hot day last summer, Caesar Rodney School District dedicated the Dave Robinson Elementary School. There was a blend of Caesar Rodney and Cape friends in attendance. I wanted to “make the podium”; after all, I had spoken at Dave’s retirement celebration, but no felt dice were hanging from the car mirror on this solemn occasion. 

Dave had a blood disorder that caused him to crash his bike, making him a wheelchair user for the last years of his life. He tried to tell the coach circle three years ago that he was slowly going away. We were sitting at a table having lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf. Dave and I were there along with Bob Cilento, Bill Collick, Herky Billings, and Brian Donahue. Dave got serious and told us, “There is nothing more they can do for my condition. I am dying.” Dave was at the end of the table. I was to his left. I responded, “Look, Dave, no guy who just ordered waffle fries can tell his friends he’s dying and expect to be taken seriously.” And then more stories, with everyone taking turns. Jeff Savage, a Cape baseball coach, was let go his tenured year at Cape in the late ’80s. Jeff was jobless. There was a summer swim meet at Maple Dale Country Club hosting the Lewes Yacht Club. Susan Frederick was the LYC coach. Dave Robinson was there and asked Susan, “Do you know Jeff Savage? He applied to be our boys’ basketball coach.” Susan said, “Hire him. He is unique. He should always be around kids. Your students and players will love Jeff Savage.” And that was the clincher. Jeff always said, “I love Dave Robinson. I'd take a bullet for that man. He saved my life.” It’s not my place to eulogize or summarize or sing a sad song for a man who lived a good life. And I don’t lose friends. I always keep them in play. Go on now, git!


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