Photography

Robin Rapaport

May 14, 2022

Obituary

Robin Dean Rapaport of Sarasota, Florida, former longtime Loudonville, New York resident died on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Sarasota after a long struggle to overcome kidney and heart disease. He was 81.

Robin was a unique person whose personality was forged by the constant trauma and danger of the Holocaust and Vietnam. That he not only survived but also led a productive life and made contributions to the lives of others, and that he came back from more than a dozen near-death trips to the ICU these past months, back from the brink to fight another day, is a testament to his inner strength and determination.

Robin was a master teacher, poet, talented gardener, chef, hockey fan and former player, a unionist, a builder and a leader and a good friend to many of his fellow teachers and union colleagues. He was humorous and witty. He did not suffer fools gladly. His grandchildren called him “Grumpa.”

He is survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, Linda Rosenblatt Rapaport. He is also survived by a daughter, Lisa Rapaport (Charles S. Smith III) Portsmouth, NH; a son, Adam Rapaport Minneapolis, Minn; his cousin and dear friend Steven Farber (Trisha) Tampa, FL; two grandchildren, Ava and Lily; several other cousins and several nieces and nephews.

Robin was predeceased by his father, Boris Rapaport and his mother, Cyla Young Rapaport; a brother, David Rapaport; and a sister, Shelley Rapaport LaMountain.

A talented, devoted high school English teacher for more than 30 years in Long Island, Central New York and the Capital District, Robin shaped the lives of many of his students from whom an outpouring of sadness and gratitude have been conveyed to his family since learning of his death.

Robin was a passionate supporter of the teacher union movement throughout his career. When he finally did leave the classroom after his retirement from the Bethlehem Central School District in 1996, where he taught both the academically gifted and the educationally challenged high school students, it was to serve public schools and colleges in a different capacity. First as a vice president and then as President of the National Education Association of New York, and later as a vice president of the New York State United Teachers, the largest statewide union of education workers in the nation, he advocated for the people and programs needed for students to succeed in public schools and colleges.

He was instrumental in helping to bring about a merger between the NEA/Y and NYSUT. He capped his career by helping to unite New York’s teachers.

His life was every bit as improbable as can be imagined for someone born Jewish in the small town of Glembokie, Poland in 1941, who managed not just to survive, but to thrive and build a legacy for himself in the U.S. over decades of public service.

As an infant and then a toddler, he, his mother and aunt who had fled east when the Nazis rolled into Poland, lived among partisans and tartars and then Muslims in Tashkent who sheltered them during the war. If they had gone west, they would have run smack into the Nazi juggernaut. Their lives and families were upended by the war, and against all odds, they survived living hand to mouth while wandering all over Eastern Europe. When the war was over, they returned to their town, which no longer existed, still hoping to find Robin’s

father. Miraculously, they did because of a sign he posted on a tree in what had once been the town square.

For the next four years, they lived in displaced persons camps set up and run by the allied forces in Austria for WWII survivors who had nowhere to go. Here, Robin learned a little English and saw his first movie, a western with Tom Mix, and ate his first candy bar given to him by a G.I. He went to school at the DP camp.

His family was finally able to immigrate to Canada, and settled first in Winnipeg and then Toronto where he played hockey in an industrial league, and finally in Providence, Rhode Island, where he attended Classical High School. As a teenager, he loved hockey, football and baseball and loathed the salami sandwiches that accompanied him to school each day. He went from an immigrant kid who spoke only Yiddish, Polish and Hebrew to a young adult so fluent in English that he majored in this at the University of Rhode Island with a double major in biology. He briefly considered becoming a doctor. Much to his mother’s eternal chagrin, he pivoted to become an English teacher, earning a master’s degree in education from Cornell University.

After getting his degree, he headed to California for a teaching job at Santa Monica Community College. However, Uncle Sam had other plans and shortly after he arrived, he was drafted. He served a long tour in Vietnam in the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army as a forward artillery observer. Robin earned battlefield commissions, and was discharged from the army with the rank of Captain.

After the war, he settled into a decades long career in public education, first as a high school English teacher, then as a union activist. To this day, former students credit him with inspiring them to imagine futures far beyond what they might have envisioned on their own.

A poet to the end, he wrote to chronicle the many ups and downs of his life; even during the pandemic, he participated in Zoom poetry readings at his favorite independent bookstore. Robin loved all music, especially Jazz; he had an encyclopedic command of Jazz musicians and Jazz history. He loved poetry and belonged to a group of fellow poets in Sarasota who call themselves the Selby Poets; he loved art, museums, searching for treasures at thrift shops, cultivating exotic flowers on every surface in the condominium and lanai, and serving as a docent at the Selby Gardens in Sarasota. He loved “spirited conversations” about politics, and he loved football, good food and wine. He loved his boat and his dream house on Lake George he helped to build, and never got a chance to spend a summer in. He loved his wife Linda and his children. The loves of his life, however, were his grandchildren, Ava and Lily – and his students, who are his legacy.

A memorial service for Robin and interment of his ashes will take place on Friday June 10. The interment and a brief ceremony will begin promptly at 11AM, at Beth Emeth Cemetery, Turner Lane, Loudonville, NY followed by a Memorial Service at 12:30 PM in the Sanctuary of Congregation Beth Emeth, 100 Academy Rd, Albany, NY. COVID-19 protocols will be observed, such as social distance seating in alternate rows of the Sanctuary. The family asks that facemasks be worn in the temple. A reception at Beth Emeth will follow the Memorial Service.

Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers may be made to Habitat for Humanity at secure.habitat.org, The Wounded Warriors Project at support.woundedwarriorproject.org or The Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY to benefit Ukraine at jewishfederations.org/crisis-in-ukraine2022

 

 

 

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Services

Interment
Friday
June 10, 2022

11:00 AM
Beth Emeth Cemetery
Turner Lane
Loudonville, NY 12211

Memorial Service
Friday
June 10, 2022

12:30 PM
Congregation Beth Emeth
100 Academy Road
Albany, NY 12208

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