Obituary of Ian Robert Robinson
December 31, 1957 – Timmins, Ontario
February 12, 2022 – Calgary, Alberta
This is the end, my friend. Ian Robinson (1957-2022) – husband, father, newsman, pain-in-the-ass – has died after a long, but not particularly valiant, battle with cancer.
He described that battle “as consisting mostly of sitting there while doctors and nurses did stuff I can’t pronounce,” and complaining about lost hair. All the while bemoaning the fact he was the only person he knew who put on weight during treatment, which forced him into fat-guy jeans. “This really bites,” he said often. Along with “Ouch!” and “Not gonna lie - cancer hurts.”
Born in Timmins, Ontario in 1957 – the year Wham-O! debuted the Frisbee and Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the last time – his early years were happily characterized by the benign parental neglect common to an era when toys for children included lawn darts, .22 rifles and chemistry sets, and during which responsible merchants would sell fireworks to seven-year-olds.
In elementary, he was labeled a discipline problem by the school system. By age 15, he was brandishing his well-worn copy of Mao’s Little Red Book and insisting to teachers that enforcing his presence in the classroom made him a political prisoner. In high school, he learned how to type 60 words a minute, drink whiskey, roll a tight, non-tobacco cigarette and how to talk to girls – all of which would prove invaluable in what would become his chosen career. He considered his greatest high school achievements to be his part in founding a short-lived underground newspaper and getting elected to a position in student government in order to subvert it. After flunking out of university, he worked at the Dome Gold Mine for two years, which instilled in him a horror of honest labour so profound that it drove him to apply to the School of Journalism at Ryerson in Toronto. After graduating in 1983, he spent the rest of his working life in newspapers, with his earliest stories published in the Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, Ottawa Citizen, and the Regina Leader-Post. He married university girlfriend, fellow journalist Kathleen Honsberger in 1984 who, until the end of his life, he referred to as “my starter wife” just to keep her guessing. He loved her well and credited her with making him a better human than he would have been on his own.
Ian worked for a number of small-town rags before moving to Alberta where his wife and he secured employment with the Calgary Sun. Ian eventually became an editor on the news desk, which he loved because it allowed him to write headlines like this one that appeared over a story about a politician sending selfies of his genitals to women: “Pubic relations nightmare”. As you can see, he proudly never lost touch with his inner 12-year-old. He also wrote a column in the Comment Section. To his enormous regret, his work sparked but a single lawsuit, but it did bring his career total to four. The column generated a few death threats, some cancelled subscriptions and an inexplicably loyal following. A self-described capitalist combat-hippie, he was pro-gun, pro-gay rights, anti-government, anti-drug law, anti-panda bear and generally anti-authority in all things, but generally pro-cop and harboured a deep respect for the Canadian political and judicial systems. He was completely aware of the contradictions and flaws inherent in his world view but didn’t care.
He was diagnosed with advanced Stage IV metastatic prostate cancer in May of 2016. Ian said one of the good things about cancer was it allowed him to make the joyous acquaintance of his beloved oncologist, who is so modest, she would prefer to not be named. He considered her the embodiment of skill, intelligence, elegance and compassion. “If I had to make this rotten journey,” he said, “I’m glad I could make it with her. Even when she confirmed what I’d been told - that I was gonna die - she did it in a way that left me strangely, deeply comforted. She may not have been able to heal my body, but somehow she healed me of my fear. I literally didn’t know there were people like her in the world.” The oncology nurse, Cathy, was a charming, supportive and loving addition to his life. He found the staff and culture of Calgary’s Tom Baker Centre impressive. “I never knew an organization could be loving,” he said. “I never met anyone there who was less than kind and concerned and competent.”
The cancer support organization Wellspring Calgary was also a source of great comfort to him. There, under the guise of teaching him art, Kathie MacDuff taught him more than he could imagine about himself and the world. Everyone he met there built a house in his heart.
The reaction of his families at the Calgary Sun and St. Paul’s Anglican Church to his illness left him in tears. He revelled in the time his oncologist bought him — allowing him to reconnect with old friends and say goodbye.
He was an avid — if unskilled — mountain biker, a hiker and gym junkie, storyteller, cheerful provocateur, traveller, inept Christian, and ardent foe of political correctness. He never had fewer than 3,000 books scattered about the house. His favourite and most frequently uttered words cannot be printed in a family newspaper. He felt desperately sorry for people who didn’t think he was funny because he thought it meant they’d been dropped on their heads as children.
Ian is survived by lifelong love, his wife, Kathleen; daughter Jill; son Jake; sister Beth and her husband Gerald; nephew Michael (Grumpy Uncle Leland says “Hi” from beyond); niece Meaghan Grace; sister-in-law Carol Honsberger and her husband Rob; brother-in-law John Honsberger and his wife Caroline (“Hey Red!”), nephew Robert, niece Emily, and a few other players in his narrative who rounded out the story perfectly. He was predeceased by his parents, Robert and Nina Robinson.
To accommodate the opportunity for friends and family to celebrate Ian's life, while also being respectful of distancing due to Covid, there will be two services. Both will also be live-streamed and recorded, so people can participate in any way that feels safe and comfortable.
A Celebration of Life will be held at McInnis & Holloway Fish Creek on Saturday, February 26, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. A traditional Funeral Service will be held at St. Paul's Anglican Church (7 Sunmills Green S.E., Calgary) on Monday, February 28, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. Family and friends who are unable to attend in person are invited to join Mr Robinson's service streamed live (see below) on the day of the service. For those who are unable to view live, a recording of the service will be posted. Condolences, memories, and photos can also be shared and viewed here.
Memorial donations may be made directly to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, c/o Tom Baker Cancer Centre, 1331 - 29 Street N.W., Calgary, AB T2N 4N2 Telephone: 1 (866) 412-4222. www.albertacancer.ca/memorial, Wellspring Calgary at www.wellspringcalgary.ca or to St. Paul's Anglican Church at http://www.stpaulscalgary/donate.
In living memory of Ian Robinson, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Fish Creek, 14441 Bannister Road SE, Calgary, Ab t2x 3j3, Telephone: 403-256-9575.
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