First time I saw Sonny Robbins was on CNN. He’d stepped out of the second story of his home next to the San Jacinto River onto a small boat.
At this point, my memory is a little hazy, but I think it was October 1994, right after Hurricane Rosa. We were the new kids on the block, having just moved to Kingwood from Kansas, and, I swear, had never seen that much rain in one spot at one time.
I didn’t know it was Sonny on CNN until years later when he and Ann hosted a Northeast Hospital Foundation get-together at their home on the San Jacinto. I’d made an uneducated comment about Sonny and Ann living in a weirdly constructed three-story home – garage on the bottom, living quarters on the second and third levels.
I probably said something dumb, like “We don’t built homes like this in Kansas.”
Sonny patiently explained if the San Jac, just a few feet away, overflowed its banks, Sonny and Ann’s living quarters would still be dry.
I had that famous “Tom Broad Blank Stare” I get when my brain is computing information I can’t fathom. Sonny recognized that “stare” and told me he had proof – CNN filmed him boating away from his second floor when the San Jac overflowed its banks that year.
Edgar (Sonny) Robbins died this past Oct. 4. I will miss him.
Lots of people shaped and guided me when I clocked in at Northeast Medical Center Hospital, but Sonny truly was the first and probably the most influential. I knew he was a trustee of the Northeast Hospital Authority and president of the Northeast Hospital Foundation. I didn’t know he was a former mayor of Humble until I saw his mayoral photo at City Hall, and he never told me his legal eye drew up the papers to establish the hospital. Other people told me that.
That’s why Sonny was special. Extremely modest. Soft spoken. With an iron will and a personality that made you want to do your best just for him.
There’s so much that could be said about Sonny. His love for Humble. His deeper love for Humble High School. His even deeper love for Ann, his partner for most of his life.
He credited every success he ever had to Ann – a successful law practice, Humble mayor, Chamber Citizen of the Year, founder of an Humble bank and hospital, and distinguished alumnus of Humble ISD.
Humble Mayor Pro Tem Norman Funderburk, who served as trustee with Sonny on the Northeast Board of Authority, loves to tell of the time Sonny was selected distinguished trustee by Memorial Hermann. There were lots and lots and lots of trustees Memorial Hermann could have selected but the system board chose Sonny.
When it was time to accept the award, Norman recalls that Sonny mesmerized the highfalutin crowd with a humorous and touching dissertation on why all the credit for his success should go to Ann.
What I’ll treasure most – and what I missed the most when I retired – were our chats when Sonny would drop by the hospital, usually to visit a friend who was a patient. Sometimes our discussions were deep. Sometimes they weren’t. But they were always enlightening. I learned so much about myself listening to Sonny Robbins speak.
Being a native Nebraskan, I love to quote that Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, and something he said in one of his famous letters, I think, applies to Sonny Robbins: “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Sonny Robbins, thank you a thousand times for all that you planted.