Many people have a smile that can light up a room. But Robbie’s smile and passion light up the world. And that’s a talent he doesn’t let go to waste.
Robbie takes every opportunity to help others. Those who know him will quickly tell you he is someone you can always count on for a helping hand, a kind word, and of course, his infectious smile. “He’s the most positive person I’ve ever met,” said Barb, wish co-nominator and one of his caregivers.
That smile has never wavered, even when Robbie faced tremendous obstacles throughout his life.
When Robbie’s wife was diagnosed with dementia, he became her caregiver, devotedly caring for her for many years. Robbie took on the battles she faced with her memory as if they were his own, supporting her and always looking for ways to brighten her day. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary together before she passed in September 2019.
“He was by her side nonstop,” explained Kris, the co-nominator of Robbie’s wish and caregiver. “I’ve never met anyone that has been able to handle and have such respect and care for their spouse.”
For caregivers, living with a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is deeply challenging on many levels, but the emotional burden can be isolating. Robbie learned this firsthand and realized that others around him might feel the same way. He began giving presentations about his experience at church and in the local community.
By sharing his story, Robbie hoped he would give someone else the confidence to care at home for a loved one in a time of need. Today, Robbie still runs a support group and has one-on-one coffee dates with spouses of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Robbie’s zest for helping others is not limited to his family and community. He is passionate about the environment and believes people can make a positive, collective impact by making sustainable choices—like using solar energy or driving electric cars.
“There are so many things that people can do if they don’t just think about themselves anymore, but they think about others,” he explained.
Robbie was an early adopter of hybrid cars and was fascinated by their potential. Even after retiring, he was still engineering— researching and experimenting in his garage, often coming back inside covered in grime and battery acid.
One of Robbie’s favorite projects was when he pushed the boundaries of his 2006 hybrid. He re-engineered it into a functional, electric plug-in car! He even created a YouTube video to share his project with others, which now has over 30,000 views.
“I had a lot of fun with that project, except for holes in my pants,” Robbie joked. Today, Robbie owns a fully electric vehicle and still loves to talk to anyone who will listen about the benefits of EV.
When Wish of a Lifetime heard Robbie’s story, we knew we had to honor his dedication to the people and world around him with a life-changing experience fueled by his passions. We worked with General Motors to invite Robbie to Orion Assembly, where electric cars are being built on a massive scale with the latest technology.
Orion Assembly is GM’s first traditional assembly plant that has been fully converted to EV production. Accompanied by his daughter Diane, Robbie embarked on a VIP tour of the enormous facility.
Surrounded by like-minded engineers, Robbie fit right in, quickly becoming immersed in detailed conversations with the experts around him. Diane expressed how rewarding it was to see her father interacting with the team and speaking to the engineers at such a high level.
“I didn’t realize how far ahead my dad was with the technology for electric vehicles,” she said. “It was so rewarding to see. Probably one of the best days of his life.”
Exploring the facility, Robbie was amazed by the advancements being made in the industry.
“I never thought that I would see something like this,” he said. “It’s not just a pipe dream anymore! This is it! It’s electric!”
One of Robbie’s favorite moments was riding in a fully electric GMC HUMMER containing over 3,000 pounds of batteries.
“He squealed those tires just like a race car, and we went up to 60 miles an hour in three seconds!” Robbie exclaimed. “And not a drop of gas!”
After leaving the facility, Robbie was already planning the presentations he wanted to make to share what he had learned with his community. But, most of all, his optimism was fully recharged by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with forward-thinking, passionate people like himself.
“I have every hope in the world for our environment,” he said. “It’s going to get better.”