Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Anthony Robinson remembered for remarkable spirit

Anthony Robinson was quick to smile, even as he endured leukemia, a heart transplant, thyroid cancer and kidney failure.

BILL STEVENS | Times (2011)

Anthony Robinson was quick to smile, even as he endured leukemia, a heart transplant, thyroid cancer and kidney failure.

The last time I met with Anthony Robinson, in June 2011, we sat in the shade of a huge oak tree at his home in Brooksville and talked about death. His death.

Related News/Archive

His words stuck with me: "I tell everyone, 'If I die tomorrow, don't be sad. I've had all these years.' ''

He had fought most of his life to survive, first as a fifth-grader at Lacoochee Elementary School when doctors diagnosed him with acute myeloid leukemia. Teachers loved the boy who even after awful, energy-sapping treatments would make it to class, put his head on his desk and do math problems without complaint.

The drugs he took damaged his heart, and three years later, on the day before his 14th birthday, he lay unconscious in a Gainesville hospital with machines helping him breathe. His mom, Joanne Bloodsworth, took a pencil and wrote a short obituary. "It would take a miracle for him to survive,'' she recalled.

On what seemed would be Anthony's last day, another child drowned. Doctors put his heart in Anthony's chest. He went on to graduate from Pasco High School, which is the first time we met. Later he excelled as a counselor for troubled teens. He impressed others with his humble attitude and quick smile. How he managed that smile was a mystery to me as we met that day in Brooksville.

Only 16 percent of heart transplant patients live 20 years or more, and Anthony was on his 23rd. He had taken good care of his heart, exercising and avoiding smoke. But antirejection drugs had ruined his kidneys. When doctors fitted him for a stomach catheter for dialysis treatments, they noticed a lump in his throat. He had thyroid cancer.

The diagnosis knocked him off the kidney transplant list. And since he could no longer work, he relied on Social Security. He got behind in his car payments. One day, a man came to take it away. Anthony had to rely on friends to get him to medical appointments in Gainesville and Tampa.

Even then, he kept a cheerful demeanor.

"I can't blame them for taking the car back,'' he said. "I couldn't make the payments.''

A few Samaritans sent Anthony some money after I wrote about him. He struggled, but he also celebrated. He called recently to say he was cancer-free and back on the list for kidneys. He didn't mention any heart problems, but his fiancee of 10 years, Tangela Forbes, said later he had developed blockages. He passed out a few months back at the Brooksville Walmart.

Last week he scraped together some money to buy a Christmas gift for his mother. He had an appointment with transplant doctors in Tampa, close to her home. When she came to the door, he held out a satin blue robe and, typically, greeted her with that big smile. She thought he looked tired.

At the doctor's office Wednesday, he collapsed. The heart that had saved him all those years ago stopped beating.

His old principal at Lacoochee Elementary, Renee Sedlack, sent me a note that night. "My heart is broken for those of us who loved him,'' she wrote. "He had a remarkable spirit and determination even as a young boy.''

Anthony Robinson, raised by a single mom in the projects of Pasco County's poorest community, lived 38 years, much longer than many others could predict. His condition limited what he could accomplish, but it gave him wisdom that earned him respect both in life and in death.

I'm reminded of his parting comments that day we sat beneath the oak tree. "Live your life to the fullest,'' he advised, "every day like it's the last.''

. Remembering

Celebration of life

A celebration of Anthony Robinson's life has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 5 at the New Bethel AME Church in Lacoochee.

Anthony Robinson remembered for remarkable spirit 12/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Anna Maria City Pier to close for year after 'extensive damage' from Hurricane Irma


    ANNA MARIA — While Hurricane Irma's last-minute shift helped spare large swaths of Florida cities from catastrophic damage, the Anna Maria City Pier didn't fare so well.

    A damage assessment following Hurricane Irma suggests repairs for the Anna Maria City Pier can take at least 12 months. [LUIS SANTANA for Visit Florida]
  2. Photo of the Day for September 26, 2017 - Flying gecko on glass

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Wayne Rayburn of Tarpon Springs, FL. He calls it "Flying gecko on glass."

  3. Candidate in East Hillsborough House primary didn't vote in primaries


    TAMPA — Personal voting histories show a sharp difference between Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure, the two candidates in the Republican special election primary Oct. 10 for East Hillsborough's District 58 state House seat.

    Yvonne Fry, Republican candidate for state House District 58, has voted in 34 elections at all levels since 1994. She likes to vote on election day, she said, and considers it a national holiday. [Courtesy of Yvonne Fry]
  4. Water and some food scarce as Puerto Rico emerges from storm


    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.

    People wait in line outside a grocery store to buy food that wouldn't spoil and that they could prepare without electricity, in San Juan, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Most stores and restaurants remained closed Monday. Nearly all of Puerto Rico was without power or water five days after Hurricane Maria. [Associated Press]
  5. Tampa-based vXchnge secures $200M loan to expand operations


    TAMPA — Tampa-based vXchnge, which operates data centers in 14 metro areas, has secured a loan for roughly $200 million for "major expansions and enhancements."

    Tampa-based vXchnge, a data center provider, secured a $200 million loan. Pictured is CEO Keith Olsen. | [Courtesy of vXchnge]