PARRSBORO - This small town is mourning the loss of one of its most faithful ambassadors, with the death of long-time mayor Doug Robinson, who passed away at a Moncton hospital early Monday morning.
Robinson had been battling acute leukemia since the spring of this year, and was hospitalized earlier this month with pneumonia. He was 71.
Born and raised in small-town Ontario, Robinson joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1956, working as a radar plotter on HMCS Saguenay. He was later posted to CFB Shearwater, joining a tracker squadron that flew helicopters off HMCS Bonaventure and other ships, and was at sea during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It was also during this time that he met another sailor, Colin Curleigh.
Now a retired brigadier-general, Curleigh remembered his old friend as a very professional and dedicated officer.
"Of course, his sense of humour was always there," said Curleigh. "And when things got tense, as they often did in that helicopter business, flying off small ships in the North Atlantic, you could always count on Doug to break the ice with his sense of humour. His leadership… whether it was a detachment commander or a crew commander, people really looked up to and admired him."
Commissioned as an officer in 1967, Robinson was posted to the helicopter squadron that flew from a number of ships, and later became a long range navigator, flying around the world with stops in every continent. He was promoted to major in 1986, and worked from a number of ships while posted to the Maritime Air Group Headquarters in Halifax, until his retirement in 1993.
He retired to his wife Shirley's hometown of Parrsboro, where he immediately took over as commanding officer of the 689 Handley Page air cadet squadron, a role he performed for the next 10 years until reaching mandatory retirement. He went on to serve as a civilian training instructor until earlier this year, when his health no longer allowed it.
Apart from air cadets, he was involved in numerous volunteer activities in the community, including the Masonic Lodge, the Royal Canadian Legion, Ship's Company Theatre and the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society.
He was elected to Parrsboro Town Council in 1994, serving one term as a councillor until 1997, when he ran successfully for mayor. He was re-elected in 2000, 2004 and 2008, serving 12 years as mayor, becoming the longest-serving mayor in town history.
Serving with him as a councillor throughout those entire 12 years was Lois Smith, who described his passing as the "end of an era" in Parrsboro.
"He was a statesman," said Smith. "He was certainly dedicated to the people of Parrsboro, and the surrounding area as well."
Robinson attended meetings and events four to five nights per week and loved every minute of it, according to Smith, who said he always conducted himself very professionally and went above and beyond the call of duty with his dedication.
He was successful in town politics because he maintained a harmony between himself and the councillors that was appreciated by people in the town, according to Smith.
"We had a consensus agreement on things," she explained. "When we voted on something, we left the building and that was the end of the conversation. That had a lot to do with Doug's leadership."
Keith Odlin, current commanding officer with the local air cadet squadron, said he was not only devastated personally by the loss, but that it would leave a major void in the cadet program.
"He gave over 53 years of service to his country, the community and the cadet program," said Odlin. "That's a lifetime of service, and that was what he was about. He was committed to wherever he was, doing whatever he could."