Gerald "Jerry" S. Robinson

Apr 6, 1920 – May 26, 2014

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Obituary

Gerald S. (Jerry) Robinson

From his beginnings as an ad man at the Kent News Journal for John Fournier in 1948 to his ultimate role as publisher of several community newspapers, Jerry Robinson (1920-2014) never forgot the word "community" in his efforts. He doubled as a sport writer, covering the Kent Royals and created the term "Pete Homer" for his undying support of finding something good about the team's losing record. After four years, he was given a chance to run his own paper in 1952. He jumped at the chance to edit and manage the paper in White Center "but only if I can buy it," he told banker and benefactor John Mueller of Burien. Mueller agreed, so Jerry took over with the January 4th edition that year. 

Beginning in 1956 he spearheaded a drive to build a swimming pool for the Salvation Army including several promotional pieces to encourage readers to donate funds. The Red Shield Youth Club Pool was opened with great celebration 18 months later. 

That same year he encouraged the businessmen in town to help sponsor a Seattle SeaFair entry with a queen and her court riding on an as yet to be built float. By 1958 those efforts paid off with a Grand Sweepstakes Award; quite an accomplishment for the dirty little town of White Center with more bars than dress shops.

He did not stop there. He lobbied King County commissioner Ed Munro for planters down main street to slow the traffic and allow shoppers some safety while in town. He also got the potholes filled in by lobbying the businessmen to create an LID to pave more than two lanes of 16th avenue so the ladies would not have to step into mud puddles when they came to shop.  

 Growing up in a family of 10, in Portland, Oregon, Robinson never knew the family was poor. His beloved alcoholic father and very pious mother "who lips would never touch liquor", were guiding lights with different goals for him.  With little rent money, during the depression, he said his father would come home and ask the family to pack up. They were leaving for another place where the landlord had no history of his dad's inability to actually pay the rent. The family moved five times in 10 years but sometimes never more than a few blocks from the last place, allowing Gerald and his siblings to stay in the same schools.

He would escort his mother, Eva, to church each Sunday, walking down Mallory Avenue where he would eventually be baptized at age 10. He never knew why he had to wait so long but suggested it was because he was such a good kid they may not have needed to, relenting only because it was mom's little insurance policy.  

Gerald S. (Jerry) Robinson was a fierce fighter for the underdog. For many, many years he championed the disadvantaged poor of White Center's housing projects. He would often take his own kids along to ride the fire trucks along the streets where they could help distribute bags of groceries during the holidays and to give them a first hand look at the struggles of the less fortunate.

The newspapers blossomed in the halcyon days of the 50's. Jerry met Al Sneed, who had also been helped by Mueller to get started in publishing. Jerry and Al became very close and often partnered in joint ventures like Rotary Offset Sales company where they ventured back east to Philadelphia, PA to buy the very first offset printing press west of the Mississippi River at the time. It was a very risky but sensational success and was likely the advent of the printed circular you see today as inserts in your Sunday paper.

It was Jerry Robinson's ardent wish that his newspaper go on serving the communities in which they are distributed, to notice the lives of the people who live there. 

Jerry was preceded in death by his first wife Lee Bower Robinson (1968) and his second wife Elsbeth Warsow McDaniel Robinson (2011).  He is survived by his sister Norma Coockin, (Billy Joe) of Gresham, Oregon and children Mike, (Julie) of Tacoma, Ken, (Debbie) of Mill Creek, Tim, (Eileen) of Federal Way, Pat, (Kimberly) of Seattle, Scott, (Mauria) of Auburn as well as Carla Warsow of Burien, Linda McDaniel (Charlie) of Burien and Michael McDaniel, (Barb) of Snoqualmie, as well as 8 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. 

 

Guestbook

Howard Hirshman
Renton, Wa
Jun 28, 2014

my own Dad passed away when I was very young . some years latter I met Jerry Robinson who took me under his wing and at those morning meetings in the office my life began to have possibilities. now I have a wonderful family , even a granddaughter. thanks Jerry Robinson

John(Johnny) Castle
Burien , Wa
Jun 24, 2014

I have fond memories of the times we hunted and fished some

on both sides of the state and on occasion we enjoyed rehashing our experiences as well as the great times as neighbors on the same block in McMichen Heights. I always enjoyed his column in the times as they reflected similar situations and conditions to my own. Thank you Jerry for the “Memories”. We miss you.

Tom Baker
Waitsburg, ES
Jun 19, 2014

got word thru the clipping service that my friend Jerry had departed this life and was saddened because he was a friend and fellow newspaper publisher...he was one of a trio of some of my favorite people...Vance Orchard, Jerry Zubrod and Jerry Robinson...they all worked for John Fournier at one time and each of them made history in their own way...always enjoyed seeing Jerry at the WNPA functions and admired the fact that he resurrected his newspapers after Seattle Times discarded them...he treated some of us publishers from the small newspapers with dignity and respect and we all appreciated him for that...RIP friend

Kevin Fitz
Burien , Wa
Jun 12, 2014

Giving thanks for having been a friend of Jerry.

Jerry gave me my first job at age nine as a carrier for the White Center News. My route 4-M which I can still drive by and remember the houses who subscribed to the thirty cent a month publication, was the foundation for the work ethic in my life. Jerry had a gift of making people feel special and good about themselves and their community. He was a historian and a cheerleader for the greater Highline community. I will miss dropping in on him for our visits about the past and the people who went before us. Gods Peace to the entire family. Rest in Peace my dear friend.

Jim Hughes
Burien, Wa
Jun 10, 2014

They just don't make them like Jerry anymore! So proud to have known him and to have been his friend.

Betty Finch Taylor
Issaquah,, Wa
Jun 8, 2014

Walt Taylor did the business dealings with Jerry and I enjoyed the social times with both Jerry and Elsbeth. Actually Jerry and I made good golf partners. The last time was in Hawaii at a suburban meeting.

The old publishing friends of mine keep disappearing but we did well and have left it to our sons I guess. I do miss all of them.

Tom Taylor
Poway, Ca
Jun 7, 2014

Jerry and my dad Walt Taylor met at the Fournier newspapers in the 1950"s and later when my wife Darlene and i owned the newspaper in Gig Harbor we reconnected with Jerry and his family. I truly admired Jerry and found him to be both a friend and mentor when we would get together at state newspaper conventions. Today his sons Mike and Ken our family count as good friends and know they will continue on the family tradition of community journalism. Thanks Jerry for all the memories and stories.

Mike Aiello
Portland, Or
Jun 6, 2014

How I met Jerry:

I was visiting Jerry's next door neighbor, with my wife, 19 years ago. It was early morning and I decided to walk out to the seawall to watch the ocean. Out of nowhere, this fellow from next door appears, introduces himself to me, and we began a conversation. He left as quickly as he arrived. Then reappeared. This time inviting me in to his home to meet his wife Elsbeth and to have breakfast.

And that is how the relationship blossomed. What a great friend and " mentor " he turned out to be. I am already missing him deeply.

" rest in peace, my friend. " You had eloquence at your command.

Michael Velling
Federal Way , Wa
Jun 6, 2014

Always a tough time to loose a person so inspirational and a joy to all as Jerry was. I will always remember him from my first visits to Seattle where I met him several times in the 60's sand 70's through Roy Velling my Uncle. The energy and lines of B.S. were always there - and very memorable. I still see son Mike and Julie who are just great folks and carry the torch for the family.

Thank you for the opportunity to share about someone who made a difference to all.

Dave Gauger
Raymond, WA
Jun 5, 2014

Jerry's publishing career blossomed from a humble beginning and grew and grew and grew. Butttt never did he lose his shared itentity with the small struggling mom 'n pop weekly publishers throughout the state. He taught newspaper publishers the value of commitment to community. Jerry used his publishing perch to build community. When I grow up I want to be just like Jerry Robinson!

Sheila Lengle
West Seattle, WA
Jun 5, 2014

even though I worked at the newspapers for over 10 years, I thought of him more as a dad then a boss.he is down to earth and since of duty will be the things I will most remember about him. I loved and greatly respected him.

Alexander G. Sasonoff
Burien, WA
Jun 5, 2014

Goodbye to to a friend I have known for 70 years.

Pete Philipovich
Whitehall, PA
Jun 5, 2014

A beautifully written testament to a life well lived. An example to us all.

Don Bucy
Normandy Park, WA
Jun 4, 2014

Played much golf with Jerry. Wonderful person, great sense of humor, always fair and honest. Jerry had many stories to tell and I heard a lot of them. He gave to the community. We will miss him. Don and Pat Bucy

Nick Sweeney
Poulsbo, WA
Jun 4, 2014

Our family will always be indebted to Jerry Robinson. We will never be able to thank you enough for what you did for us. Kindness and generosity made a difference for us. You will always remain a friend for the Sweeney family. God bless you.

vicki schmitz block
west seattle, wa
Jun 4, 2014

Jerry Robinson was my friend for 60 years - from the time I was a high school student at Kent Meridian High School in Kent. Jerry would help us with our high school newspaper and with our yearly annual publication. Jerry had a way with people, to capture their story and to write a great article. He was a "true" reporter to the very end.

Jerry made me laugh and smile..........and he always saw the best in people in our communities. He was a great story teller, and a born promoter.

I will miss him and his daily emails.............I will never forget his email series with photos of the breakfast plates he lovingly prepared for Elsbeth when he did the cooking. Even now, just remembering those photos of gigantic pancakes decorated with sausage mouths and banana disc eyes...............makes me laugh!

Lots of hugs to all of the Robinson family as we remember a unique, charming and lovely man - his departure leaves a huge hole in all of our lives.

Fondly, Vicki Schmitz Block

T.M. Sell, Ph.D.
Des Moines, WA
Jun 4, 2014

Great guy, good man, a success story to inspire others. I actually talked to him more when he was a trustee at Highline College, and his service was much appreciated there as well. It is an honor to have known and worked for him.

Clay Eals
Seattle, WA
Jun 4, 2014

Beyond allowing his newspapers to thrive in what I would call a golden age of weekly journalism in the 1980s, Jerry had the vision and courage to invest in the production of the first (and best) history book of West Seattle and White Center, "West Side Story," in 1986-1987. It was during the planning and execution of this landmark publication that I worked most closely with Jerry, and I will be forever grateful for his perception and support. He truly was tuned in to his readers' care and affection for their communities.

Georgie Bright Kunkel
Seattle, WA
Jun 4, 2014

There will never be anyone to fill your shoes, Jerry.

As I wrote to your family earlier, you did the almost impossible in keeping so many little papers alive over the years.

I was on board writing for your papers for many years.

It will never be the same without you but you have done well in preparing your family to walk in your footsteps.

As I mentioned before, you are now writing for the big newspaper in the sky.

Michel Stern
Mercer island, Wa
Jun 4, 2014

I am not ashamed to say I loved Jerry from the moment I met him over 40 years ago in our law office in the Hoge Building. The relationship we had was not tied to my being just his counsel but it was much more than that.

I do not recall Jerry uttering an unkind word unless it had to do with his sometime golf opponents and that was only in jest

Over the many years it became clear to me that he deeply cared for his family, his friends and the community .

You bet I will miss him terribly but I truly believe.that his memory will keep the family and yours truly with a smile on our faces

Jerry...I love ya pal

Mary J Hollen
Greenbank, WA
Jun 4, 2014

For what his family has meant to me and my family, thank you Jerry Robinson.

Jeff M Wilson
Burien, WA
Jun 4, 2014

A full complete life, it was a wonderful thing to know you for a few moments. Rest in peace!

Michael Elliot Rainy
Seattle , Wa
Jun 4, 2014

I actually live on my own small farm near Nairobi Kenya.

But because Seattle has Just passed the $15.00 min wage even on Facebook Seattle is my "Home Town"

Really although I was born in South Dakota I lived in the Renton war time housing till 1945. My best friend from Evergreen HS was Mike Robinson and I First Met his Dad Jerry sometime between 1957-1960. I then went to Reed in Portland and have lived in Kenya ever since Graduating in 1964.

I'm not proud that I must be one of the very few people that Jerry never got a story out of But I will repay that Debt as soon as I Get the nod from MIke. And his 3 Brothers still getting Jerry's papers out.

Jerry Robinson was ALL ABOUT GOOD STORIES and he walked the talk. He cared about people and their places in the Great Northwest in a way that was always rare and exceptional without any thing more threatening than a good laugh. As Mike wrote Jerry was a Hope Merchant.

Jerry and Mike - The Best Poet of Puget Sound, for me have been two firm boat anchors all 50 years I've lived in Africa to my Boyhood and young adulthood in the Shadows of Boeing Plant 2 - giving my soul safe harbor in the calm waters of South Seattle.

Thanks and Blessing dear Jerry R.I.P

You will not be forgotten

Pete von Reichbauer
Federal Way, Wa
Jun 3, 2014

IF ONLY there were more Jerry Robinsons advocating for their communities....RIP

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