Alan Robinson, 100, of Philadelphia, longtime owner of A&B Auto Repairs on North Van Pelt Street in North Philadelphia West, car enthusiast and neighborhood mentor, died Friday, July 15, of respiratory failure at Roxborough Memorial Hospital.
Devoted to the well-being of his family and the neighbors of Strawberry Mansion for 80 years, Mr. Robinson made it his goal to hire local men who wanted to work in auto repair, and those who had been incarcerated, and would shared his experience at any time with anyone who wanted to deal with cars.
“He understood the importance of teaching a trade to young men as an alternative to street life in Philadelphia,” said his granddaughter, Marlena Ellis.
And it wasn’t just car repair skills that Mr Robinson shared. “Teaching you qualities like work ethic, love, respect and taking care of your responsibilities are just some of the things that made me the person I am today,” said his son, Ellis Gindrow.
Beginning in the 1960s until recently, Mr. Robinson went into his shop six days a week, and while he had let the actual work be done by others in the past few years, he could still reliably offer repairs with just a description of the problem. He liked Cadillacs and stopped driving the 98 only because his grandchildren, especially grandson and caregiver Syree Ellis, insisted on driving it around.
Known as Pop and Pop Al, Mr. Robinson sponsored neighborhood sports teams over the years, organized youth trips, mentored countless young people, shared his money with those in need and served as chairman of the board of trustees for Cornerstone Baptist Church. For years he bought flowers for all the mothers at church on Mother’s Day and provided food for neighbors who were hungry.
“Pop bought enough food so if a child didn’t have enough at home, they could sit at his table with his family and eat,” Mr Robinson’s family said in a tribute. “He was known for putting something into everyone he met. If someone asks for something, he gives it and asks for nothing in return.
Mr. Robinson was a good listener and an engaging conversationalist. He loved telling stories from his youth, explaining how things had changed over the decades, and describing events that influenced his life. He hosted family dinners on the holidays, but also enjoyed ordering Kentucky Fried Chicken and steak sandwiches.
He told people that the secret to a long life was to “trust God and treat everyone right.”
“He was the glue that held everyone together,” his granddaughter said. “He solved the problems and I knew I had to go to his house every holiday. He poured so much love and wisdom into us. He was selfless.”
Born on February 24, 1922, in McBee, South Carolina, Mr. Robinson came to Philadelphia when he was 17 years old with his uncle in search of good work. He worked, among other places, for his uncle at a car repair shop, a carpet factory and a carpet company before opening his own business in the 1960s.
He returned to McBee every year to visit family and friends. His last trip south came just two weeks before his death.
He married Alberta Gaskins in 1946 and they had a son, Duane. He also had sons Elvoid Rogers, Ellis Gindrow, Elijah Langley, and Jeffrey Langley, and a daughter, Mildred Langley. His wife died in 1996 and he kept her obituary in an envelope which, at his request, was placed in his coffin at his funeral.
“Being his youngest and only girl made me a daddy’s girl,” his daughter said, “and I made him a daddy’s girl.”
Mr. Robinson enjoyed taking pictures, riding his exercise bike and watching shows, judge judy, and World Wrestling Entertainment broadcasts on television. He was quick to chat with friends and neighbors from his front porch as they passed by, and his family said, “He had a big smile and an even bigger heart.”
Granddaughter Tiffany Johnson said: “He saw me when no one else saw me and loved me when I felt unusual. He left mighty big shoes to fill.
In addition to his daughter, sons Jeffrey and Ellis, and granddaughters Marlena and Tiffany, Mr. Robinson is survived by six other grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and other relatives. Sons Dwayne, Elijah and Elvoid; granddaughter; and one brother died earlier.
Services were Friday, July 22.