ELKHART — For the second time in less than a year, one of the top athletic families in Elkhart has lost a member.
David Robinson, a 1983 graduate of Elkhart Central High School and a physical education teacher at Monger Elementary School, died Wednesday. He was 52.
Robinson's father, Henry "Big Hank" Robinson, a member of the Elkhart County Hall of Fame, died last summer.
April Walker, principal at Monger Elementary, said Robinson was a local celebrity at the school and will leave a lasting legacy in the community.
"Mr. Robinson was adored by every student and teacher in this building and I have never heard an ill word spoken about him,'' Walker said. "He had the best laugh in the entire world and his smile and laughter were contagious. You couldn’t help smile or laugh any time you spoke with him."
She said Robinson loved his students and they loved him back.
"He had a connection with so many students and parents. Some of our students with the most challenging of behaviors were angels when they were in Mr. Robinson’s presence. He could build a relationship with anyone and he did," Walker said. "Dave was just an all-around stand-up guy and he would give you the shirt off his back. He is irreplaceable. There is a huge hole in our hearts right now and we will never be the same.
"He was good for kids, good for education, good for Elkhart," Walker added. "He will be so missed. Our hearts our simply broken.''
Robinson was a three-sport athlete at Elkhart Central, competing in basketball, football and track. He scored 919 points in his basketball career playing for coach Ed McDowell and earned a scholarship to Tri-State University (now Trine), where he averaged 16.9 points as a senior.
Robnson's brother Dennis won the Bringle Award in 1984, honoring the best senior male athlete at Elkhart Central or Elkhart Memorial high schools.
In addition, David Robinson's sons Jerimy and Josh each won the Bringle in 2003 and 2008, respectively.
Richard Delks was not only a football and basketball teammate to David Robinson at Elkhart Central, but the duo became best friends from the second grade on up. They attended Hawthorne Elementary and Pierre Moran Middle School before playing football and basketball together for the Blue Blazers.
"We were lifelong friends and we obviously spent a lot of time together both in athletics and just in life,'' Delks said. "He was a very strong competitor and very focused on the competition, but he wanted to excel not just for himself, but for the team."
He remembers how Robinson took every game he played seriously.
"David was a very emotional guy, but is was a good emotion," Delks said. "He never let it interfere with his athletic position on the team or his ability to play. He just brought the kind of emotion to make everyone better and demanded excellence from himself and his teammates. Plus, he had that great smile that everyone just loved.''
Tom Kurth was Robinson's football coach at Elkhart Central and one of the main reasons Robinson went out for the sport. He was a running back on back-to-back 8-2 Blue Blazer teams.
"I'm just shocked and in such despair that we've lost him. Such a great kid,'' Kurth said. "He had the most contagious smile you ever wanted to see and he had the unique ability to get alone with everyone. He was just a genuine all-American person and he always gave 100 percent and really fought to the end. He was a real champion.''
Recalled Kurth, "he loved basketball, but I encouraged him to play football and really had to talk him into it. But he came out and really enjoyed it and like in basketball, he always put the team first. He was always asking what he could do to make our team better.''
Kurth said the bond between David and Dennis Robinson – who starred in football at Western Michigan – was strong.
"There was no sibling rivalry between the two brothers, it was a genuine and great brotherly love," Kurth said. "It was really inspirational the way they looked out for each other at all times."
Delks says Robinson's personality made him perfect for his role as a teacher.
"I think he took his background and just took it into the classrom to help kids,'' Delks said. "He had a strong interest in developing people and helping them get better, which made him perfect for teaching. He was a guy that could relate to anyone and had no fear in life, living or competing ... A lot of people talk the talk, but David Robinson always walked the walk, too. It's just a tough loss for everyone.''