South Charlotte

Twins celebrate 80 years, spent lifetime in athletics

There's something special about twins, especially identical twins.

I always wished I had a twin when I was growing up. That would have been a built-in best friend.

I recently had the pleasure of spending time with identical twins: Gene Robinson and his brother, Jerry, celebrated their 80th birthday in September with a big bash in Mint Hill.

"We did everything together for many years," Gene Robinson said. "We even dressed alike right through college."

Born in Concord, Mass., the brothers grew up in Maynard, Mass. They lettered in basketball, football and baseball in high school and college. Two years ago they were inducted into the Maynard High School Hall of Fame, and in 1982 they were inducted into the Lenoir-Rhyne College Hall of Fame.

"We played every minute of a football game, both offense and defense. No face masks, either," said Gene Robinson.

He shared with me the scrapbook his late mother had made for him years ago. I read that Robinson intercepted 15 passes in one season at Lenoir Rhyne.

"All Jerry's and my athletic pictures, newspaper write-ups, stories and everything are in this book. Mother made an identical book for Jerry, too," Gene said.

Upon graduating from college, the twins played baseball for the Rutherford County Owls.

"It was 1953; I stole 56 bases in one year," said Gene Robinson. The brothers neither smoked nor drank during their years as athletes, preferring to stay focused on training and conditioning. After playing baseball, Gene joined the Marines, playing on the Marine baseball team. Jerry was drafted into the Army after being turned down by the Marines due to calcium deposits in his elbow. Jerry played baseball and was captain of the Army All Stars Football Team in Tokyo.

After their tours of duty, the brothers went into teaching and coaching. Gene's last coaching job was at Independence High School, where he was head wrestling coach for 10 years as well as a teacher and assistant football coach for more than 20 years. Jerry and his wife of 50 years, Jackie, now live in Virginia, where they enjoy playing golf together.

Gene Robinson and his second wife, June, have been married 35 years. They have a blended family of two daughters and one son. Retired 18 years, Gene also plays golf.

"I play the 'Social Security' courses, the less-expensive ones," he said.

His golf partners are former Independence High football coach Buster Ledford and Chuck Holmbery, a retired Army officer.

"I'm still close with my brother, I just wish we lived close, too," Gene said.

I learned the one thing that keeps these veterans sharp and healthy is the fact they have stayed physically active throughout their lives.