Lain's Log

Remembering Rod Robbie

January 9/12.

The past few days I've been consumed by thoughts of Roderick Robbie, (architect extraordinaire).

When I learned of his death at almost midnight Wednesday, I immediately broke into tears. He was such a big part of my past and growing up years. The next day, I had cause to go to the Beaches, (to track down and pick up some of that ridiculously-hard-to-find-hair product,

CURE by I.C.O.N.) - the ONLY thing that allows even a WIDE-toothed comb to somehow viciously tear through my insane bird's nest tangle of wild, reckless hair,

- available at Hair Dynamix on Queen Street East. (I realize, this crap has nothing to do with Rod Robbie, but it all ties in!) Whenever I visit that salon, the lake seems to call to me. As I was leaving, - looked south, and just couldn't seem to stop my car from driving

down to the water,

parking on a side street, then walking through the open fence, across the wet sand in my purple boots, to the rocks,

convening with nature, taking in the cold air, the sunshine, the beautiful sights,

and even jumping out on to one of the flat rocks in the lake, setting up an autocam pic, taking deep breaths, thinking about life, love, friends and my memories of Rod Robbie.

He was the father of my oldest T.O. friend, Karen Robbie (Hall). I met Karen after moving from Port Credit to Toronto at the age of 11. We were in grade 5/6 together at Deer Park Public School. (Yonge/St. Clair).

This is Karen (cropped from our class photo) around the time we first met. (circa '67?) She was brainy, bright, brilliant. She had a diehard ambition of becoming a brain surgeon. As it turns out, she achieved the goal of doctor and has practiced as a physician in Michigan for over 20 years.

This little geeky twerp is me, - same year and class pic, (pre-blonde hair colour, makeup or contact lenses), but thankfully, - due to my Mum's funky sense of '60s style, she had me dressed in a floral mini-skirt, patterned stockings, penny loafers and a poorboy sweater! I had heavy duty ambitions too, (but they couldn't have been farther from Karen's dreams!)

How Karen and I became best buds is anybody's guess. I was shy, afraid to go to school, lacked confidence of ANY kind, but had a massive love of two things - TV and boys. Wouldn't you know, I fell in and out of love a LOT and somehow ended up in a career of TV. Karen's parents, Rod and Enid couldn't fathom what connection we shared. They called me "flighty," - (which I was). They wanted Karen to have loftier pals, but for whatever reason, I was the chosen one. We hung out together constantly.

Karen and I shared a passionate love of two things.

The Franco Zeffirelli movie version of Romeo & Juliet,

- 1968, starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey as the (stunning!) star-crossed lovers. (I saw the movie 17 times at the Park Theatre!) Karen & I memorized EVERY word of the movie, acted it out together on cassette tape and were in deep LOVE with luscious Leonard!

The other love we shared?? - My rock star cousin, Kevan Staples! (two pics of Kevio (above), - at the height of all his long-haired cuteness,  put together for me here by my daughter, Kate). He was the COOLEST guy we ever met. At the time, Kev hadn't even started Rough Trade yet. He was a rocker and a roadie and we both ADORED him. (Well, come ON - just take a LOOK. I mean, seriously, what's NOT to like???) - 40 years later, Kev is STILL one of my favourite people in the whole world. Since my recent reconnection with Karen, we've talked and laughed about Kev many times. Karen wasn't "flighty", but she sure had a huge crush on Kev!

So, now, sadly, - back to reality.

Before leaving Hair Dynamix, bought two more "bling rings". - Go to this salon if you want sparkly stuff!
A few years ago, Auntie Ray (Kev's Mum) told me to wear rings when I want to feel empowered.

Didn't understand what the hell she was talking about at the time, (till cancer came along). NOW, I can't get enough rings. (the salon had a 40 percent-off sale). Just call me "Mrs. T."!!!! (And hey, no need for brass knuckles)!

Anyway, - Karen invited me over to her Dad's old house on Cornish Road to see her on Saturday. I thought it would be a bunch of friends plus family.

Stopped by the Beaches LCBO to pick up a big bottle of white wine. (wasn't thrilled that the only LARGE bottle of chilled wine was Ontario stuff....not exactly my fave, but at least it was cold). Sat in the car and wrote a special message on the sympathy card I'd bought. Yep, cried, just trying to get the words out. Karen has been SUCH a help to me during my Mum's long illness and then MY battle with breast cancer. I wanted to do something in return. But what can you do to help? - Well, for starters, - bring wine!  (I didn't have any. I NEVER drink & drive).

Finally, got on the road again, heading towards Moore Park to see the Robbie family. Made a quick stop in front of our old house at 79 Moore,

 (where Karen spent SO many hours with me). What a wild & crazy time we had there! GREAT times,  GREAT house, GREAT friendship. Sure doesn't look like January, does it?

- and then, just three blocks away,  took a pic of the Robbie home. As I snapped the shot, heard a voice call out to me loudly, - "THAT must be ELAINE LORING!!!" It was Karen's younger sister, Nicola. Gave her a big hug and she "announced me" to the family as I entered the house. Little did I know, I was the ONLY guest. Just the Robbie fam and ME!

I felt as though I'd stepped backwards into The Twilight Zone. It was all so familiar, and yet, WAY out there!

Even DECADES after being in the Robbie home, the dining room ceiling hit my memory bank immediately. Wooden panels (built by Rod) and sunscapes, (painted by Enid).

Everything in the place was crafted by one or other of them. SO unique.

This pretty water colour was painted by Rod, which surprised me!

(since Rod was best known for designing buildings! This was an early draft/model pic for SkyDome).

The Robbie livingroom looked very familiar to me, yet, different.

Karen posed with me for a pic in front of the family Christmas tree. A happy reunion for a very sad reason.

Karen's younger sisters, Caroline and Nicola were busy cooking and setting up the table for a family dinner. It was good to see them again after so many years. I'm not quite sure how they managed to smile through the pain and tears of this particular evening at their late father's home.

Karen shared the story with me of the last few weeks of her Dad's life. In the end, she and her husband, Chris Hall, took Rod to St. Mike's Hospital on December 25th, after opening presents on Christmas morning. Following six weeks of non-stop medical confusionand frustration, Rod's problem finally got diagnosed as ischemic bowel, but by then, it was too late to treat it and he passed away January 4th.

Karen showed me part of Rod's impressive book collection,

photos of her parents when they were young,

and perhaps, my favourite thing of ALL - a decade-old note from her Mum, taped up, asking Rod to please
clean up his papers and get RID of what he doesn't want.

What I adored, was the handwritten (in red) response from Rod, which asked, simply - WHY?
(a man after my own heart). LOVE it.

I was privy to a cool caricature of Rod,

saw his prized Order of Canada on the wall,

and heard the treasured tale of the great green ashtray that actually inspired Rod Robbie's vision of

Katimavik, the inverted pyramid design for the famous Canadian pavilion at Expo '67.

I was stunned to learn that right up until the last couple of days of his life, Rod Robbie continued to write and design. He demanded that paper and pens be delivered to his room, so he could create.

Even while lying in his hospital bed at St. Mike's,

he was dreaming up incredible ideas for the medical facility where he died.

The night before Rod's wake, family members were searching for pics and printing them out for a photo board. I stood in awe and watched as it happened.

Hours later, I showed up at The Queen Mother Cafe on Queen Street West (where Rod had lunch every day), to discover,

a picture board, perfectly assembled and lovingly put together,

for everyone to see.

The guest book was open to sign. I could barely write my message through the tears.

Angus, (youngest of the four Robbie children, and who looks so much like his Dad), made a brief but beautiful speech about his parents.

Just as I went to shoot this pic, his two adoring kids, son Raphael, 5, and daughter, Emmanuelle, 7, rushed up to grab and support their Dad during his comments. Angus bravely stood up, shed no tears, and gave details of his Dad's wish for a fund to help struggling young artists. The family requests that donations be made by visiting the website in the name of the Enid and Rod Robbie Memorial Fund.

This is a tiny b & w shot of Rod with his first daughter, my good friend, Karen.

Farewells are my worst thing in life. It was very hard for me to say goodbye to Karen at the end of this special wake. She's been there every step of the way to help me through the loss of my Mum, as well as my own health issues, so I was glad to be part of this "send-off" to her Dad, Roderick Robbie. I will never forget him. Travel safely back to Michigan, Karen. I'm thinking of you, your husband, Chris, your daughter, Vicki and your siblings, Nicola, Caroline and Angus. Call if you need ANYTHING.

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At January 9, 2012 at 9:51 a.m. , Anonymous Angus Robbie said...

Elaine, This is magnificent. Thank you so much for this. Angus.

At January 9, 2012 at 11:26 a.m. , Anonymous Elaine Loring said...

Kind of you to write, Angus, but it was YOU who was truly magnificent. You sure did your father proud with your speech (and all the photos and pictue board, etc.) I hope the fund you've started will bring in a lot of money and help many art students in the future!
I just added the pic of Caroline & Nicola, which got lost in the shuffle of trying to write this thing ASAP. I wish you all the best and know that both your parents will live on in you.

At January 10, 2012 at 12:51 p.m. , Anonymous gary erickson said...

I grabbed the picture of the green ash tray for the OAA magazine perspectives. I gave you credit. I hope this is OK. They are doing a peice on Rob. I got the ash tray story too.
If you like you can talk to the editor: Gord Grice,
Gary Erickon, OAA.

At January 10, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. , Anonymous gary erickon said...

Ah..sorry. Retraction. Im backwards here. Its Rod not Rob. sorry.

At January 12, 2012 at 8:18 p.m. , Blogger Rickr said...


I was doing some searching on the net and found your blog today. Your dad, Rex and then wife, Jill hosted me at their home way back in 1953 when I was putting together an essay on Radio Announcing as a grade Eight class project. Rex was then on CHML. They were a great help to me. I retired as the vice president of a communications company in Georgia a few years ago, so something I learned from them probably pushed me on in my career. If you see your dad, tell him Rick Rae, still remembers his help from nearly 60 years ago!


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