January 11, 2011

Feature Obituary: Dorothy Robinson, 99, 'loved people and loved life'

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — She skied downhill into her 90s, attributed her longevity to having a glass of red wine every day and co-founded a Portland potato chip company.

click image to enlarge

Dorothy Robinson, seen with her husband, George, at Mount La Rocca, Italy, skied all over New England and the world.

Family photo


the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

Dorothy "Dot" E. Robinson, a lifelong resident of South Portland, died Friday, just three weeks after turning 99.

"We like to say she was in her 100th year," said her daughter Suzanne Anderson of South Portland. "In all of our photographs, she was laughing or smiling. She loved people and she loved life."

Mrs. Robinson, who was born in Portland, was just 6 months old when her father, a postal worker, drowned while swimming in the Presumpscot River.

That tragedy led her family to acquire land in South Portland, near the intersection of Broadway and Evans Street, where they built a home. The first floor of the home was converted into a market. Mrs. Robinson lived on the second floor.

After graduating from South Portland High School in 1930, Mrs. Robinson went to work as a bookkeeper for Jordan's Meats. She was one of the company's original employees.

In 1937, she married her high school sweetheart, George E. Robinson.

In the early 1940s, George Robinson and Norman Cole started a company in South Portland, Humpty Dumpty Potato Chips.

Around that time, the Robinsons were invited to join the Officers Club at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. Every Saturday night, club members would gather at the fort, overlooking Casco Bay, for a dance.

Anderson said the Halloween dances were the most memorable, though the club also hosted many tuxedo-and-gown affairs.

"One year my mother was dressed up as a monkey and my father as an organ grinder," she said.

When the Robinsons were in their 50s, they decided to start their own company. They co-founded Circus Time Potato Chips on Anderson Street in Portland. For years, Circus Time produced potato chips, ruffle chips, barbecue chips and popcorn.

"They took everything they had and invested it in this new company," said Anderson. "They made these really good potato chips."

As their business grew, the Robinsons decided to build a new potato chip factory on Foden Road in South Portland.

They sold Circus Time in the late 1970s and retired.

That gave Mrs. Robinson more time to pursue her passion. She was a member of the Down East Ski Club and one of the first people to ski at Pleasant Mountain -- now known as Shawnee Peak -- in Bridgton.

She skied all over New England, the country and the world.

Anderson described her mother as a graceful downhill skier.

"She skied old-style, with these smooth, consistent turns," her daughter said.

Mrs. Robinson skied with friends and family members for years, finally giving up the sport when she was 93 years old.

Anderson said her mother was always fashionably dressed and well groomed -- even on the ski slopes.

"She always looked perfect," her daughter said. "She had a lot of fun with her life."

When asked the secret to such a long life, Mrs. Robinson would tell her family that it was the glass of red wine she had every night -- and the peanuts.

"She liked to eat peanuts with her wine," her daughter said.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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