In Memory


John Robbins

Date of Death:  March 25, 2012

Residence at time of death:  Elgin, Illinois

Profession:  Retired supervisor, Illinois revenue collection department

Family:  Wife -- Rita

              Three children:  Abigail, Sara Jane, Rebecca

              Three grandchildren

John's Life:

John Robbins came to Highland Park from Texas when his father, an Army member, was transferred to Fort Sheridan.  No one could have guessed that over the next two years he would become one of the greatest athletes in the history of HPHS.  Soft spoken and a bit shy, he didn't swagger and he didn't brag.   But when he stood on a diving board, Don Davis, one of his coaches, remembered, "He looked like Superman up there."

John had learned competitive diving from his dad, who had also been a diver, and he had the one quality all championship divers possess....he was absolutely fearless.  Stan Lind, who was his best friend on the swimming team, recalled, "He looked like a Greek Adonis.  He had an amazing ability to control his body gymnastically."

Mr. Davis, who became the head coach of the swimming team our senior year, confided, "When he got on that board he used to scare me to death.  I was afraid he was going to jump right through the roof."   Stan Lind and John, out for laughs, would sometimes do a routine in the HPHS cafeteria during lunch hour.  Stan, playing the straight man, would tell fellow students, "I know a guy who can do a front flip from a dead start on the ground."  John would respond, "Ever see someone do a back flip?"  After a crowd had gathered, John would then execute a perfect back flip, landing effortlessly on his feet.  "He could jump like a gazelle," Stan said.

In his senior year John was undefeated going into the state championship meet, which was being held at the New Trier pool.  Coach Davis remembers telling the team to report to the high school at 10:30 A.M. for the bus ride to the meet.  The departure time came and went and John had not arrived, sending John Broming, the diving coach, into a near nervous collapse.  Finally, John arrived, with apologies, several minutes late.  As the bus pulled out of the HPHS driveway, Coach Davis whispered to Coach Broming, "You didn't need to worry.  There was no way I was going to let this bus leave without Robbins."   It was a good decision.  On that day John became the state diving champion.

And he wasn't just a champion, he was a phenomenon.  College diving coaches from places like the University of Indiana, offered the opinion that, even as a high school senior, John could beat any college diver in the country.   The NCAA Swimming Guide listed him as the top diver in the nation.

His signature dive was something called the full-twisting one-and-a-half in pike position.  His timing and body control were so perfect he hit the dive every time.   "He would get 9's from the judges routinely when his competitors were getting 7's," Stan Lind remembers.

After graduation it was widely expected that John would be named to compete in the 1960 Olympics.  But he had a bad day at the Olympic trials and didn't make the team.  He turned his efforts to intercollegiate competition, attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.  He won the conference championship three straight years.

His college teammates remember that the school was a very small institution at the time and Carbondale offered almost no social activity.  One night John decided to climb the city water tower, making it all the way to the top of the big tank.  The local police were not amused and came after John, who thankfully did not try to dive to the ground.

He next joined the Army, where he continued to take part in diving competitions, usually winning.   Eventually, he was sent to Viet Nam.   His diving career was over.

In January of 2012 John was among the six individuals and one team to be inducted into the HPHS athletic "Hall of Fame."   Don Davis, who had once held the bus for him, was there to reminisce about John's list of accomplishments.   John was now confined to a wheelchair as a result of several years of health problems.  Bobbie Monroe, the HPHS athletic director, was in attendance, and remembered, "He could not have been more gracious or in better spirits."

He was truly a champion.

Click here to see JOHN's last Profile entry.