Everything there is to know about Lloyd Robinson can be found pinned on a navy KCPD hat.
“That’s my history right there,” Robinson says pointing at it, stroking each medal and pin.
There’s a crest from Saint-Lô, France, where he was stationed most of his time in World War II, that fills him with memories of adventures with Captain Griffin and trucks filled with gasoline exploding. A gold Star of David reminds Robinson of his relationships with Jews during the war, a gold hook tells tales of German prisoners who worked for him.
Robinson, 94, lives alone in a humble wooden house in Mission, and has since his wife Martha passed away six and a half years ago. His pale blue eyes are hidden by wrinkles and bristling grey eyebrows that fan out like a garden rake, but those blue eyes light up when you ask him about anything on his hat. He has trouble breathing, and can’t speak for more than 20 seconds without having to take a few seconds to catch his breath again, but that doesn’t stop him from pointing out each medal or pin and telling you story upon story about where they are from, and how they are significant in his life.
“The Lord has blessed me with… with an incredible memory,” Robinson said.[media-credit id=147 align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]And it’s true, he has. He can tell you about the day KC heard about Pearl Harbor, 70 years ago today; a day where “everyone was on their toes,” Robinson said. He can tell you about the day he stormed Utah Beach, 13.6 miles away from the famous Omaha Beach, and how his platoon had to walk carefully in a straight line to stray away from mines still buried in the sand, even though it was 36 days after the first wave of soldiers. He could tell you about the three French executions he witnessed in person, and how he’d do anything to find the men who executed them and “beat the ears off of them.”
He’d rather not speak about what they did, though.
Born and raised in Ottowa, Robinson and could tell you about growing up and dreaming of being a Chemical Engineer for a big corporation. About how he can remember buying his mother the first washing machine invented, and having to crank the side of it when he came back from college at the University of Kansas and wanted to get laundry done. He could tell you about how he almost fought in the famous “Battle of the Bulge,” because his general, who according to Robinson, “hated his guts,” and frequently tried to send him to the front lines.
Twenty pins and mementos hang on Robinson’s hat. Some war medals. Some walnut scrapings he’s found in his back yard that look like a smiley face. Some abstract pins that remind him of past friends, like the Jayhwak pin, that reminds him of Ernest Lindley, the seventh Chancellor of KU, who was the best friend Robinson ever had. He’d love nothing more, though, than to get one more medal before he passes away: a purple heart.
“You see…when I was walking on [Utah Beach] my leg hit a steak in the ground and cut through three layers of clothes and caught my leg… right by my knee,” Robinson said. “Of course, people don’t usually care about the engineer who got a scratch on their leg… but I slept in a foxhole with two mosquitoes that night and it got… infected a little. I don’t know, I just think it’d be… really nice to be able to show my great-grandchildren… their old grandpa got a purple heart.”
Robinson has sent a letter to the government, and is waiting on a reply.
In the mean time, Robinson doesn’t do much now-a-days. He tries to keep up with is three children and grandchildren, but he mostly putters around his old wooden house and reminisces. He has a study where he keeps everything. Every award. Every old picture. The walls are littered with newspaper clippings of important dates. Pictures of him and Martha sit quietly on his desk. He attributes his length of life to his old 1986 pick up truck, or as he calls it, his “alter-ego.”
After being diagnosed in 1985 with Colon Cancer, doctors predicted Robinson to live no more than three years. He had a simple procedure by a local doctor, who is now deemed one of the best doctors in the country, and after, was cancer free. After the surgery, half of Robinson’s large intestines were gone, which explains why he can’t speak for more than 20 seconds without taking a break. Robinson walked out of the hospital, and spotted an ‘86 Chevy, and fell in love. He bought it, and has kept it ever since. The car is bent out of shape, and has worn rusty with age, and costs about $2000 a year to keep running, but in Robinson’s mind, it’s worth the money to keep it.
“The way I see it… if I can keep that truck running… then… I will keep on going,” Robinson said. “That truck is running like a top now, and I’m in good physical shape as well. I’ve been blessed to live this long…and see…what I have seen.”