photo courtesy Sandy Van Damme

Standing room only at Robyn Herrington's service

U of C staffer and internationally-renown author loses battle to cancer

Publication YearIssue Date 

In a gesture usually reserved for students, professors and heads of government, the University of Calgary made an exception and flew its flags at half-mast for Robyn Herrington.

After a two-year-long battle with cancer, Robyn--an Information Resources staff member--fell to the disease Mon., May 3, leaving behind her husband Bruce Herrington--who works in shipping and receiving at the U of C--parents Gisela and John Brown, sister Sandra Van Damme and her surviving brother Michael Brown. Her brother Noel predeceased her by six months.

In life, Robyn was more than just a U of C staffer; she was an internationally published author and more importantly, an amazing person.

"Robyn was one of the most cheerful and upbeat people I've ever met, even when she was ill," said internationally acclaimed author Robert J. Sawyer, who flew in from Toronto to deliver Robyn's self-written eulogy. "Robyn had no enemies--none--and that's pretty damn rare for someone in their forties. She was truly a wonderful person."

Sawyer's presence at the funeral speaks worlds of her importance to the writing community. As a member of the Science Fiction Writers Association, Science Fiction Canada and Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, she didn't merely 'belong' to those organizations, she actively participated and offered assistance at any chance she had. She was also an accomplished writer and editor in her own right, with a number of internationally published works, as well as a hand in the discovery of fellow Australian writer K. A. Bedford.

"Her most recent story was in the just released anthology--New Voices in Science Fiction--published by DAW, a major US science-fiction publisher, and edited by Mike Resnick, a huge name in the field," explained Sawyer. "This book was Mike's attempt to spotlight the writers he thought were going to be big names over the next decade, and Robyn absolutely deserved to be in it."

"Robyn epitomized IFWA with her willingness to help others and her amazing ability to write," added Mark Hewitt, a fellow IFWA member. "She is someone all of us aspire to--as a writer and a person."

In addition to her writing, Robyn loved to blow glass and give out her artwork as gifts to her countless friends--a tribute to her boundless generosity. Robyn also loved to travel the world with her husband Bruce, soaking up all the sights, sounds and tastes.

"We liked everyone in the world, all cultures, but if it was only us two in the world, we'd still be happy," explained Bruce.

Robyn's love for her husband was obvious in her intelligent, witty and incredibly touching self-written eulogy. It is uncommon for people to write their own eulogy, but in this case it was more than fitting--it gave Robyn a chance to say goodbye in her own unique way.

"I once heard, on some TV movie, an old man say that his friends would remember he was alive as long as they could feel the wind on their faces. I kind of like that idea. So when you feel the wind in your face that'll be me- right there

In your face.

See ya 'round."




My thoughts are a little disoriented and bumping into one another, so I am putting them down. My heart is heavy with the shocking loss of our Robyn, yet, hopeful, too, since I know where her own hope lay, and I know where she is. Robyn made joyfulness seem entirely effortless. I so admire that about her. The thought of her always lifted my heart. She was vivacious and gracious. A walking gift.

Robyn made everything seem fun or funny, even her illness. She'd once announced to our writing group, "When you get to be 40, you've got the body you *deserve.* When she finally lost weight from chemo, she remarked "it's
the only diet that has worked so far." When her hair fell out, she was delighted to buy a wig which was a style her own hair would have never allowed.

If she was down or suffering, no one knew it. She presented everything as an "Oh, well, chemo made me sick, so now I ma going to get comfy on the sofa and listen to JMT." If she had bad moments, she kept it between herself, God and Bruce, her husband.

Robyn makes me laugh even though she has "moved away." We shared a love of poetry, JMT and art glass, which I love and she created. Both of us were huge fans of Dale Chiluly, and she lived vicariously through my visits to the Corning Glass Museum, the "glassmaker's Mecca," she called it.

She was an amazing, feisty, fiercely loving woman, and what sticks with me at this moment, in particular, is that the only time I recall her losing her temper was when Tinky-Winky came under attack.

I'm putting my favorite picture of her right here, to remind me of the irrepressible joy and even, glee, which enveloped her and as a inspiration for how to live out these earthly days.