At 13, Ricky Robinson’s tendency toward generosity was already evident. A former classmate, Robert Collinson – whose mother taught Ricky – knows first hand.
“My parents’ car was on the last stages of life – it was wintertime and they were having trouble starting it. [My mom] was complaining to another teacher about it, and my parents had just bought a house and there wasn’t a lot of money kicking around,” says Collinson.
“Ricky was about 13 or so, and he overheard the conversation and he came up after and said he could lend her the money to buy the car.”
His mother thanked Ricky, but declined the offer.
“A 13-year-old probably doesn’t have that kind of money,” Collinson laughs.
“But that’s the kind of guy he was: generous to a fault and a lot of fun to be around.”
Last week, Ricky was one of five men killed in an avalanche near McBride, B.C. while snowmobiling. Only 55, he left behind his wife Roxanne, daughter Brittney and granddaughter Flynn – among many other loved ones. When EDGE spoke to some of his family and friends, Ricky’s generosity and his love for outdoor adventure were a common thread.
“He was a good man. He was close to his family and his nieces and nephews, and it’s just devastating them, all of us, every one of us,” Ricky’s sister, Karen Christensen, says.
“He was such a fun-loving man and he loved people. He would give you the shirt off his back if he could.”
Ricky was the middle child, with older brother Marvin and younger brother Donnie, as well as Karen, the second-oldest. He was also an adoring uncle.
“He loved to challenge his nieces and nephews. He liked to goof around with them and he liked to invent things with them,” she says.
“He invented a potato gun with his nephew [Gary] who passed away before him. He built one, then my nephew revamped it – they just loved to do this.”
His sense of competition was strong with his nieces and nephews, Karen says, remembering a trip to Hawaii where he was determined to tackle the waves with the younger group.
“We used to tease him all the time because he was trying to out-surf a bunch of kids who were half his age,” she laughs.
“They would also tease him because he would just have to try it and try to beat them. When you’re 50 years old and you’re competing against a bunch of 30-year-old kids, they’d go, ‘Ricky, you’re not going to win!’”
On another trip, Karen says Ricky, Marvin and her husband Dale went snowboarding – largely, because the younger boys were doing it.
“It was the most hilarious performance I’d seen in my life,” she says.
“To see a bunch of grown men on snowboards with their feet up in the air. After about an hour lesson of that, they all decided that probably was not for him or any of them, but [Ricky] had to try it again a couple of years later.”
Childhood friend Bruce Mackay remembers Ricky’s passion for outdoor sports. “In the wintertime, we were always out sledding,” he says. “It’s funny because I’d always get the machine stuck and he’d have to come help because I wasn’t big enough to lift the machine up again, so he’d have to come over and lift it back on the tracks.”
In their teenage years, Mackay says they’d get on their skidoos and head right out from Ricky’s dad’s shop on Old Airport Road – the founding site of Yellowknife-born trucking giant RTL Robinson Enterprises, started by Ricky’s father Richard.
“Sometimes we’d end up by the airport, go into the airport to warm up and come back out, hop on the sleds and head out again,” he says.
But even from an early age despite all of the distractions of youth, Mackay says Ricky was dedicated to the family company and always ready to help his father out. Ricky and Roxanne would eventually run RTL’s Edmonton branch – raising Brittney just west of the city.
“Rick was just there when you needed help – even before you knew you needed help,” Marvin wrote in an email to EDGE, in the midst of preparations for a Celebration of Life held in Ricky’s honour to be held today.
“Whether it was fixing something, cleaning something, making something work, or just being there to lend a hand – Ricky would do anything for anyone at any moment. He was selfless.”
Robinson was a donor to the Yellowknife SPCA and the Yellowknife Community Foundation. A kind and generous man, Marvin says, he refused to take life as serious as everyone else.
“I remember Rick for his desire to get the most out of life with the people he loved,” Marvin wrote. “He had a huge heart and there was room for everyone in it.”