Happy Birthday in Heaven, James Robinson, DVM!

5 min readApr 13, 2021

Thank you to Rick Thomason, President of Six Rivers Media, LLC and to Stephanie McClellan, Editor of the Johnson City Press for allowing me to republish the following. It appeared in substantially the same for in the Johnson City Press in November, 2020. My original blog post from April of 2020 follows.

The picture above was taken several years ago; I am sorry that I don’t know to whom to attribute the picture to. And James was quite the Auburn fan, having graduated from their College of Veterinary Medicine.

My blog for this week is a tribute to James W. Robinson, DVM. James’ was born on April 16, 1952 and died from pancreatic cancer in 2018. Happy birthday in Heaven to James! His told me his favorite cake was coconut cake with coconut icing. I feel sure James will be having coconut birthday cake later this week as he sits at Jesus’ feet. And he will share, because that was his nature.

Anyone who knew James learned a lot from him; he was a font of knowledge, not just about veterinary medicine, but about God, about life, about building construction., and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. James’ religion was very important to him. It speaks volumes that shortly after his death, his former Sunday School class at Central Baptist Church in Johnson City was renamed the James Robinson Sunday School Class.

In no particular order, here are some random thoughts about James. James would be the first to admit that his thoughts were scattered all over the place. So, to continue my attempt to honor James, I’m not going to attempt to put my thoughts in any logical order. If you knew James, you completely understand that.

My father, Jack, and James were good buddies before Jack died in 2006. I’ve heard both of them say repeatedly “Most people do the best they can do, most of the time.” That’s so true, especially in these days of COVID-19.

James would often opine to me about his employees’ lot in life — or lack thereof. On multiple occasions, he’d say, “I wish I could get (name of employee) to understand the reason she’s in the situation she’s in is because of the choices she’s made.” We often discussed that much stress that people had was likewise caused by the choices they had made. He was a father figure to some, and a brother figure to others, including me.

When I was in the clinic one day, James asked an employee to do something. I don’t remember what it was, but the employee said, “We can’t do it that, because of ABC.” And James said, “Well, you need to find a way to do it.” He then shut the door and continued to examine the critter. He said, “Something I learned from Jack is that you find a way to do things, rather than trying to explain why something can’t be done.”

Yet another day I was at the clinic. James was lamenting about trying to hire techs. He confided in me that he liked to meet them before they were hired, but he really didn’t like interviewing them, and he really detested having to fire someone. He said, “I’ve learned to do what I do best, and that’s to be a veterinarian. And I let others do the rest of the work. They don’t do mine, and I don’t do theirs.”

One Christmas, after both of my parents were deceased, Santa, in the form of James, came by my house. I’m not sure when he came, but I think it was around 5:30 or so in the morning, because I heard someone doing something at my front door about that time. My newspaper usually came about that time, so I assumed it was the paper carrier. I’d been to a Christmas Eve dinner at the home of friends and got in quite late the night before. When I got up to look for the paper around 6:30 or so…..Santa had left me a bottle or two of wine, some goodies, all beautifully presented. Truly special! Truly surprising!

“You and I think (name of person and their hobby) is a waste of their money and to us, it is. But for (name of person), it’s the only thing he has to look forward to. He doesn’t have the advantages of a good education, a nice house, getting to go out to eat, and things like that that we do.” Since then, I’ve tried to look at people with tastes in entertainment different than mine in a different light. It may be all they have to look forward to. A change in perspective.

I’m not sure what year the North Johnson City clinic opened, but I remember it was in January. James wanted to open the clinic on a certain day, and remarked to me, “Mama’s birthday is that weekend. I’ll be the only child that’s not going home, but it’s just another day. I’ve gotta get this clinic open. I’m losing money every day it’s not open.”

I told him that I was disappointed in him for not going to see his mother on her birthday.

And then I said, “James, you know there will be a ton of pictures taken. Some of those pictures will probably be shown at her funeral. How is it going to look if you’re not in the picture? People will say, “Where’s James in this picture of Nancie’s 90th birthday?”

And someone else will pipe up and say, “Oh, that’s the weekend that James was opening his new clinic in Tennessee.”

He said, “Well, I guess you’re right. I really should go. I’ll regret it if I don’t.” And he went.

I felt I’d accomplished a lot with that!

Knowing I was an active member of First Christian Church, James always asked me to go to see him in The Living Christmas Tree at Central Baptist. I never did. That’s my one regret — he asked me, repeatedly, to do something that would make him happy, and I never did it. From that I’ve learned to make those visits now, to make those phone calls now. It may be too late if I wait until Christmas.

There are several more pages of thoughts I want to share about James Robinson, DVM. I’ll pen additional thoughts in a forthcoming blog.

Copyright April 13, 2020, April 7, 2021 by Rebecca Henderson