White Rock councillor 'showed tremendous courage' in public cancer battle
A first-term White Rock councillor who shared his cancer journey with Peace Arch News readers last fall has died.
Larry Robinson succumbed to the disease Saturday afternoon in Peace Arch Hospital.
He was 65.
"He was a multitalented, multifaceted guy," Mayor Wayne Baldwin said, also noting Robinson's "tremendous amount of courage" in his public battle with cancer.
Robinson's many interests resulted in a contribution to the city "much more than you might expect from a first-term councillor," Baldwin said, adding that the flag at city hall will be flown at half-mast for the rest of this week.
"It's a great loss to the community – he's going to be missed."
Robinson's widow, Ann, said he died around 2:40 p.m. with herself and his brother, Garry, at his side.
"He passed very, very peacefully, which is good – he'd been in a lot of pain in the last two or three days," she said.
"It's very, very hard, because he was always into fitness and health. He was a big guy with a big heart – and he was much too young."
Robinson was first diagnosed with a melanoma in 2009. Last June, a biopsy of a fast-growing cyst under his right ear confirmed a malignant mass.
Robinson chose an integrative approach to fighting the disease, which – until last month – never prevented him from fulfilling his council duties.
"He was inspirational," Baldwin said.
"A lot of people would not have been out in a public position with the tumour he had, but it didn't slow Larry down at all. He wasn't afraid to go to council meetings or meet with the public. It showed his courage, and his dedication to public office."
"He faced everything so bravely," Ann Robinson said.
"He'd go walking up and down the hills, going about meeting people. He was a very dedicated person. People thought he was very outgoing, but he was also a very quiet person on the inside."
The real-estate agent and personal trainer was elected to White Rock council in November 2011, receiving the fifth-highest number of votes among councillor hopefuls.
At an all-candidates meeting prior to the vote, he told citizens he wanted to leave a legacy to White Rock and described planning for the city as "a three-dimensional puzzle."
Prior to getting into politics, Robinson was an avid PAN letter-writer; outspoken in his musings, but decidedly less keen to be interviewed.
On council, Robinson was clearly in his element, often using colourful turns-of-phrase when voicing his opinions.
Even as the mass on his face grew, he didn't hesitate to attend various functions or debate issues with his peers in council chambers.
"Larry was not afraid to offer his opinions," Baldwin said, with a chuckle.
"He and I disagreed on a few things, but he was always respectful. He offered his own opinions very vociferously, but he was also willing to listen to the views of others.
"He was a guy who did his homework. He always researched things quite meticulously, particularly when it came to property issues or health issues. He had his background in real estate and his passion for personal fitness and health, but he was also quite interested in the arts."
Items he paid particular attention to included the city's Street and Traffic Bylaw, which Robinson pushed to change to give skate- and longboarders options for legal riding. He also spoke out against allowing banner signs in the city, describing the signs as "trashy."
Building higher in the town centre – he was among supporters of a 12-storey Vidal Street development – and building density on the city's outskirts were among ideas he favoured, as were regulations for motorized scooters.
In the wake of last summer's pedestrian fatality on the waterfront train tracks, Robinson took a keen interest in rail safety, including the idea of relocating the railway.
And last fall, he joined Coun. Helen Fathers in criticizing a decision to lease out the city-owned building at 1174 Fir St. The move followed a July decision to renovate the building to include council chambers. Robinson told PAN at the time that the flip-flop made council "look like idiots."
Last September, Robinson spoke publicly about his cancer.
Interviewed at a picnic table on East Beach, the father of two quipped that being diagnosed with the disease was "like losing your virginity – you're changed for life."
For Robinson – who was also a former longtime Air Canada employee, working for decades in its legal department – it was a wake-up call that prompted him to stop taking things for granted.
"It was sort of God slapping me on the head and saying, 'get serious'," he said.
Following an integrative approach to treatment, Robinson opted early on against what he described as a "fairly radical surgery" to remove the growth.
"I would’ve lost my ear, half of my face…," he said.
Admitting he later wondered if he'd made the right decision, Robinson said no path came with a promise of success.
"There's no guarantee in cancer treatment – period."
Robinson said he changed his lifestyle, explored medication options and researched the role genetics played in his situation, explaining that at the very least, he could warn his adult sons.
At that time, scans indicated the cancer was not spreading. However, he was told odds of beating the disease were 30 per cent.
Robinson described his cancer journey as "a project."
"Drag this out as long as I can and do the life I have," he said.
In the months following, the mass grew exponentially and became untreatable.
The last city meeting Robinson attended was the Feb. 18 rail safety task force. Admitted to hospital March 3, he was moved to palliative care last Wednesday.
Robinson's death is the second of a sitting White Rock councilllor this term. Mary-Wade Anderson passed away in June 2012, four weeks after being admitted to hospital with complications from a heart procedure. She was 84.
While a byelection was called to fill Anderson's seat, as the next general election is slated for Nov. 15, no byelection is required.
In addition to Ann and his two sons, Robinson is survived by two brothers and his parents, Margaret and Gordon.
A celebration of Robinson's life will be held Monday, March 24, at 1 p.m., at the White Rock Community Centre in Miramar Village.
– with files from Alex Browne