Paul Robinson

Paul Robinson

by Ron Roman
Special to Stars and Stripes

November 27th saw the passing of Yongsan Army Garrison FMWR legend Paul (“Paulie”) Robinson, who died a day short of his 82nd birthday in Virginia. Mr. Robinson had worked in Korea as a federal employee, first as a military policeman in October 1957, till his retirement in October 2014 as civilian head of Yongsan’s Family, Morale, Recreation and Welfare (FMWR), totaling 57 years.

I met Robinson as a young GI serving in the Eighth Army upon first coming to Korea in 1977, a full 20 years after he had arrived at Incheon Port to begin his stint as an MP. In those days it was common for GIs to sail across the Pacific to begin their Korean duty. By the time this writer arrived at Osan AB, that practice had long been discontinued. He was fondly remembered by me because he oversaw Yongsan’s athletic facilities and programs, of which I was heavily involved at the time, and shortly thereafter when I returned to work on-post as a civilian. He was always remembered by all for his hearty dedication to his work which was, in a large sense, his life. In fact, he was known to many as Yongsan Garrison’s original TGIM man: Thank God It’s Monday!--and he would get to go back to work. Besides keeping the athletic facilities and programs humming, he’s fondly remembered by me every early December for kicking off the Yongsan Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  This time of year brings back those memories….

In 2008 he was nominated for the Meritorious Service Award. Then-Commander Colonel David Hall said in his nomination letter that “Paul Robinson is one of the most involved and arguably the most visible person in U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, a customer service-focused organization serving a vibrant community.”

At the time Collier Field House and Sports Director Bennie Jackson, a Robinson protégé, said, “We’ve been together ever since 1976. We’ve experienced a lot of things. He’s just like a father to me. He does his best to help everybody … that’s his nature.” And today: “There were so many good things that Mr. Robinson did for this military community for both soldiers and family members. I had the pleasure of working with him during the period from July 1976 through September 2014.”

USFK’s longest-serving Public Affairs Officer John Nowell remarks, “Paul was the go-to guy for anything in the FMWR arena. Everybody knew Paul. He was present at every FMWR event in Area II.”

And Korea NCOA Chapter President Joe Terry says, “Mr. Robinson showed a true example of how to be humble, patient, and positive. He was a joy to be around personally and professionally. On the personal side he was like a father to me. Lastly, he loved Korea!”

Come to Yongsan’s South Post holiday tree lighting ceremony early next December….

You can still see Paulie standing by the Christmas tree.

*    *     *

Kudos to Bennie Jackson, John Nowell, and Joe Terry, all mentioned above, who contributed to this story. The writer of this story has taught English throughout the Pacific Command at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) originally since 1996.

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