Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
Eugene Stanley Robinson
Sunrise: July 9th, 1937
Sunset: October 25th, 2023
Today is November 10th, 2023, and it has taken this long to write an obituary for my beloved husband, friend and soulmate because I have been in shock and pain more profound than even I, a glass-half-full optimist, could have predicted. And today I can laugh at what I know Gene would say about this:
“Welp, babe, you are a day late and a dollar short.”
Gene fell asleep on Tuesday evening, October 25th, and didn’t wake to see Wednesday. He is gone now but what his life stood for and the many memories his loving family and friends have will be our comfort.
First of all, Gene wasn’t always Gene—he decided when he was about seven or so that he didn’t like this name, too sissy he always claimed, and so he opted to be called Stanley or Stan; and he insisted to all of his teachers and family members that this would be the only name to which he’d answer. But then when he was about 25 or so, he decided differently—that it was simply silly to insist on being called Stanley when his first name was Eugene and hence moniker transformation to Gene, which he liked far better than Eugene.
Gene grew up in a rough-and-tumble way, in a very rundown Southeast neighborhood in Washington, DC, and in a house he always said was like the one described by Toni Morrison in her novel Sula. Until, that is, he made the decision that would put him on the road to the many successes he would have as an adult—he phoned his Dad, told him he had to move in with him, and always said he didn’t ever consider that his father would say no. And to his credit, he didn’t turn his son down. From this safer environment he would launch—first to play football at Armstrong High School as the co-captain of this powerhouse team (which co-captain honor he shared with his good friend, Willie Wood, who would later go on to play professional football and then to coach for a time with the Chargers), to be elected the President of his Senior class, and then to go on to Michigan State on a full football scholarship. When he was injured, he lost his scholarship, came home and in his own inimitable fashion, decided what would be the next chapter of his life: he found his way to a recruiting office thinking he’d just join the Air Force, but as was the way of things for Gene, it turned out that he possessed an invaluable skill: he had tremendous foreign language facility, and specifically, of all languages, Russian.
On he went to Syracuse University, both to learn Russian and to play football again. Then he joined a special unit in the Defense Department, made up of all black guys, all of them like Gene, skilled at Russian, and one more unusual talent, they each had to play at least one instrument. Our government would place this unusual cadre of black men in positions all over Europe, primarily in northern Europe—Gene was sent to northern Germany, and there to become a “listening post” fellow who frequented the favorite bars, nightclubs and social gathering places for Russian military personnel. Because? Our country knew that the USSR was at least as racist as our own country was, and this meant the Russians wouldn’t be judicious in their conversations, particularly as they drank more vodka of an evening.
After five long years, during which time he could not return to the states, he came home, cast about for what would be next and decided he needed to go back to school. And which he did with a vengeance—he chose the University of Maryland and University College together, and acquired the rest of his bachelor’s degree, then jumped right in for a master’s degree, all the while working for a foreign language publishing house as their translation editor and teaching as a graduate teaching assistant. But he didn’t stop there: he then went on for the final degree, the PhD, again all the while working in publishing and teaching undergraduates.
And now, at the end of his life, he was still teaching, at the University of Maryland, this time online because he had some mobility issues that made being in a brick-and-mortar classroom a bridge too far. He loved teaching; he loved his students; and he loved young people, saying always that they were our future and maybe, just maybe, they’d figure out how to straighten out this mess they were inheriting from their elders.
He leaves to smile and remember, his wife, Carroll, who’d first met him as a student; his children, Egan, Gina and Gene Jr.; his stepsons, John and Ryan, their significant others, Tracy, Cindy and Heidi; his grandchildren, Katherine and Morgan; Calliope; Delaney; and Griffin; brother- and sister-in-law, Bill and Debby; 10, yep, 10 half-siblings; and more friends and colleagues than one could count. His was a life well-lived and now he has gone to that which he always said was “a better place.”
Gene was cremated; he did not want the standard funeral but insisted always that he wanted a raucous and cheeky Irish wake (his wife has some Irish roots) and for people to celebrate life and remember that it is short and should be lived with joy. (Which phrase interestingly, he insisted be added to the family checking account checks in the “comments” space.)
The family would like to thank the Barber Funeral Home family in Laytonsville, MD for honoring all of Gene’s wishes and for their kindness in doing so.