BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - More than a hundred people came out to the Robinson Preserve in Bradenton on Monday to honor the life of its founder, Bill Robinson, who passed away earlier this month after a battle with cancer.
“He was like a life coach, always wanted for us to succeed in life and always positive and probably the most loving guy that I’ll ever know, he was a remarkable man,” said Parks Robinson, Bill’s son.
People who knew him better than anyone spoke about Bill and his life before a candlelight walk led by Robinson’s family. The walk led people through the preserve to the tower and back.
“Known him for 50 years and I know his family and he’s done so many good things for Manatee County that I just felt that I needed to be here,” said Carol Whitmore, a Manatee County Commissioner.
According to Business Observer, Bill Robinson’s father, H.L. Robinson, founded Robby’s Sports in Bradenton in the 1960s, which grew to 49 stores before the family sold the business to Woolworth Co. in 1988.
Bill ran the business for three years under the Champs Sports name before leaving to start a successful tree farm and work in commercial real estate.
He sold the tree farm around the same time his son, Parks Robinson, approached him with an idea. That idea became Fit2Run, which Bill and Parks launched in 2006. The company now has more than a dozen locations.
In 2008, The Islander reported Bill Robinson partnered with Manatee County to established Robinson Preserve from 487 acres of rehabilitated farmland. The county purchased the land from the family for a discounted $10 million, with $6.4 million paid with Florida Communities Trust money and the rest covered by taxpayers.
The preserve helps protect the living space of 75 species of fish and marine invertebrates and more than 100 species of birds.
Bill Robinson also served on the board of SANCA, otherwise known as the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, which manages Nathan Benderson Park.
“He was the ultimate family guy who loved everyone and loved doing great things for people,” said Parks.
Bill Robinson was 70-years-old. He leaves behind lots of family, friends and a large community who will miss him very much.