The past 96 hours have been some of the most mind-boggling and heart wrenching for me as a fleeting 20 something individual. I awoke on Sunday morning to calls, text messages and voice mails asking me if I was okay. I was fine, somewhat tired, but overly okay, until I started to follow up with some of them. Upon speaking to my sister, my heart sank, and I began to sob. She broke the news to me that my friend Robb Kingston had been tragically taken away from this earth just a few months past his 30th birthday. Many people came to know Robb as Bobby after his move from Columbus to Charlotte after graduating from Wittenberg. Robb or Bobby if you will all in the same evoked thoughts of a kind, fun-loving free spirit who could instantly light up a room. His story begins far before that, at least for me, growing up in suburban Columbus in Grandview Heights, a small, close knit community a stone’s throw from downtown Columbus and a 3 wood to Ohio Stadium. It was here where I grew up with Robb.
Growing up, I was never very popular, I had good, close friends, but, I was always the nice kid, chubby, fairly awkward. Robb was athletically talented, energetic and outgoing. Not exactly the opposite of me, but, we had our differences. Our paths first crossed during one summer of little league baseball. Robb’s team, the White Sox that year, had dominated all season. An un-blemished record, they faced my lowly team, the Marlins. We had a few wins and some competitive talent, but we just weren’t that good. Our only shot at respectability was to take our shot at Robb and his undefeated team. Throughout the afternoon, the game remained tied. I mentioned my lack of athletic prowess at the time, but somehow managed to play in center field…irony. With two outs and winning runs on base, Robb came to bat. Truth be told, he was going to be the hero, all he needed as a hit to win the game. A hit he did manage, a towering fly ball to, you guessed it, my location in deep center. Stumbling and attempting to make a play on the ball, I somehow managed to fall to the ground and made a catch that I couldn’t duplicate again if I tried. Robb’s White Sox team had a blemished record, a tie to the Marlins. In the post-game handshake, he muttered to me, ‘nice catch’. I replied thanks, and we went about our business.
Fast forward to a few years later, and through growing up, we had become friends. Our parents only lived a few blocks away and we would pass each other and began developing a friendship. During middle-school I began to make my name playing football. I was bigger than most kids in my grade and often played up on the 8th grade team. They were a good bunch and lots of good friends played together. I being the younger guy, was again the outcast, but, with Robb’s guidance, became more of an insider. I got to hang out with an older crowd and somewhat was able to have a bit of bolstered credibility amongst the older group. Robb would often come over to my parent’s house after freshman practice while I was still awake. My mom would give him a few cans of Dr. Pepper and he would crank up Ace of Base on my stereo to jolt me out of bed. He often got a kick out of this, I was rarely amused. That was just him, he wanted to hang out, and go do fun things, so that’s how he got my attention.
Upon entering high school, and as growing up often can be, things can get rough for adolescent men. Upon entering high school, a hazing controversy surrounded GHHS and my class-mates. Students in my class were being paddled and humiliated as part of a ‘Dazed and Confused’ phase by the outgoing senior class. While mum was mostly the word, my mother, outed the principal for his in-action. It made Columbus Dispatch news, and my mom was quoted. Once again, as awkward as high school can be, I was again an outsider. That fall, one of my classmates who had fallen into deep depression, committed suicide. While I had remained an outsider due to the hazing incidents, Robb was the first one to break the line and offer his condolences to not only me, but others deemed outsiders as well. I never thanked him for that.
Football again was where I had my chance, playing up as a freshman and getting pummeled daily by upperclassman for my mother’s words. (I never did get paddled, so was an outcast in that sense as well). During my sophomore year, I was to start at tackle, Robb was to be quarterback. RK10, the man, we had a shot at having a decent year. The mock scrimmage against Teays Valley, I had my first start. I played left tackle, and thankfully Robb threw with his left, I don’t think I was ready to protect his blindside. Two or three series into the game, I got beat on a play, Robb got a concussion and his season was done. I felt terrible, and he razzed me about it, that year he was more focused on basketball and the team ended up making Regional Finals. Robb was one heck of an athlete.
Grandview days started to subside and soon Robb had gone to college. I spent a good amount of time with his younger brother, Jon. Robb ended up attending the aforementioned Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and instantly made a name for himself with some of the outstanding qualities he possessed; fun loving, genuine and often times hilarious to the extreme. When it came time to pick where I would attend school, I had my sights set on Marietta College, until that is, Robb said I should come to Witt for a visit. On a whim, I decided to do so. I took the formal tour, but upon Robb’s guidance, ditched my host for the night and went out with Robb. I decided to commit to Wittenberg the next day.
Once there, he immediately took me under his wing. I was still figuring myself out, awkward, but nice, heavier than before. He still found ways to make me feel like the coolest person in the room. On an opening weekend party at the famous 310 Firestine, I met some of Robb’s good friends. Many of whom became acquaintances, fraternity brothers and friends to this day. Sadly, many of them I will be seeing in Charlotte tomorrow as we gather to remember him. I had an in and a network of people that would look out for me. I had not really been accustomed to that. As the year progressed, I did a lot of my own things, trying to figure college life out. As sophomore year rolled around, 18 Bill Edwards became a mecca for those looking to let loose from the struggles of academia. Robb was the catalyst.
I made out with a girl at that party and became a hit because it was sloppy and in front of everyone. I wound up awakening on the futon on the front porch, soaked, alone at 5am with the door to the house locked. It was one of the greatest nights I had experienced to that point.
Robb made me feel involved, included and most importantly, as cool and as popular as he was. We ended up going through our Wittenberg years with shenanigans, stories, and bonded over late nights, our mutual friends and continued this through college. Christmas break stopping by his folk’s house on Elmwood to catch up, talk basketball, and the like. Once he moved to Charlotte, I would visit, often only for a weekend, but, they were always memorable, and we always picked up just like old times.
If you were amongst a group of people and you didn’t know Robb, he wanted to know you. He had a vested interest in the people he was hanging around with. He would offer you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He put his ‘reputation’ on the line for me many times, because that is the kind of person he was. I hope I never disappointed him as a friend.
I know this post has been a bit of a ramble, and I wish my thoughts were more composed, but, I have never felt so defeated, sad, or angry at the same time. Unable to focus and all I can picture are news caps of my friend lying in the middle of a Charlotte street with a cloth draped over his lifeless body while police conducted the beginnings of a murder investigation. It makes no sense to me. A man who brought so much joy into my life, and, assuredly into others’ as well, could be taken so suddenly, without remorse. It is maddening to think about.
I will never understand how or why this tragic turn of events took place. I will surely think about it for years. I know I will attempt to remain close with Jon and his family as best as I can. Only God knows the sorrow they must feel.
Tomorrow, once again, Robb will bring a group of people together, and we will all be gravitated towards him. Mostly for the way he made us feel and how we felt when we were around him. A beautiful life was taken from this world, but never to be forgotten.
Rest In Love,
Robert Edward Kingston, III.
Until next time-