Stephen L. Robinson, longtime Vineyard resident and Island real estate broker, died at home peacefully on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, surrounded and cared for by family and friends following a multiyear engagement with prostate cancer. He was 69.
Stephen lived life to the fullest. Outgoing and known for his enthusiastic energy, Stephen’s standard was the bold Hawaiian shirt that matched his outsize personality. He was beloved by many and known for his warmth, vibrant embrace of life, love of music, love of food, and boisterous laughter. In addition to his love of family, Stephen’s passions were real estate and travel.
Raised in Arlington, Stephen spent his early summers at the family cottage in Essex before transferring his allegiance to the Vineyard and his family’s cottage, The Cricket, in the Oak Bluffs Campground, where his grandparents also resided.
From his earliest days, Stephen passionately took to the water, learning to swim, sail small boats, and canoe, and spending his summers exploring the beaches and marshes near Crane’s Beach. As a Boy Scout, the weeks he spent at Camp Sachem in New Hampshire helped him establish his lifelong habits of thoroughly mastering any subject that commanded his attention and as a confident explorer of new ideas and new places.
Appropriately, Stephen’s first job on the Vineyard as a 16-year-old was as a beach boy at the East Chop Beach Club, where his deliberate and thorough approach in executing his duties earned him the nickname of “Flash.” During his next Vineyard summer, he explored the inner workings of the kitchen operations at Giordano’s Restaurant.
Following a year of engineering studies at the University of Massachusetts, the spirit of the times and Stephen’s zest drew him to the 1968 world of San Francisco, where he furthered his education through his work at the music store “Music Five.” Later he ventured to Mexico, where he developed an export business that focused on handcrafted embroidered and woven clothing, then in vogue.
Embracing change in the early 1970s, Stephen traveled to Alaska aboard a school bus, and established himself in a Fairbanks log cabin. Working as an emergency firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management, he traveled extensively to the most remote native outposts.
Heating his cabin with a wood stove and using the permafrost as his refrigerator in the summers, he labored at a sawmill and later on the Alaska Railroad. Beginning in 1974, he contributed to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. As a Teamster, among his other duties, he drove heavy trucks north of the Yukon River during the summer and winter months while living in the construction camps at Big Delta and Old Man.
Following the completion of the Alaskan pipeline, Stephen returned to the Vineyard in 1979, where he bought his first home in Vineyard Haven and embarked upon his long career in Island real estate. Over the years he was affiliated with various real estate offices, including Ocean Park, Island, Harborside, and most recently ReMax. He became a devoted student of residential real estate, amassing an encyclopedic knowledge ranging from design and construction techniques to the intimate geography of the Vineyard. Stephen also maintained a deep trove of Vineyard history and lore. In general he took great pleasure in helping people with a wide range of issues, and was a stickler for detailed accuracy. Stephen particularly loved to impart his knowledge to visitors to the Island. As a real estate broker, he derived his most professional satisfaction when he could assist Islanders find affordable homes and solve the problems that posed barriers to their purchase of a home.
In addition to the Vineyard, Stephen’s great passion was traveling with the love of his life, Linda Carmen Zarro, a true soulmate. Stephen and Linda met on the Vineyard and married in 1989 at Hart Haven’s Bluff. Stephen and Linda were particularly drawn to the Caribbean Islands. Over the years they explored Anguilla, Antigua, Jamaica, Grenada, Carriacou, St. Martin, Nevis, St. Kitts, Montserrat, Tobago Key, Union Island, Mayreau, Mustique, St. Vincent, and Bequia in the Grenadines. They also traveled extensively in Europe and South America.
Stephen was born on August 7, 1946, at the Murphy Army Hospital in Waltham. His parents met and married during the American wartime occupation of Italy. His mother, Silvana Rigacci Robinson, was a native of Florence, and his father, Arthur Edward “Robbie” Robinson Jr., was a GI from Arlington stationed in that city.
In addition to his wife Linda Carmen Zarro, Stephen is survived by his stepdaughter Zoey Zarro Rawlins, her husband Benjamin Reese, and his grandson Thurston A. Reese, his mother Silvana Robinson, and his bothers Gregory, David, Andrew, and Daniel Robinson, in addition to his many nieces and nephews as well as a host of friends.
An Island gathering to celebrate Stephen’s life will be held at a future date to be announced. In remembrance of Stephen’s life, donations may be made to the Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard and the Cancer Support Group of Martha’s Vineyard. Arrangements are under the care of Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Oak Bluffs.