- Published: February 20, 2020
The village has lost a friend, an artist, and a creative spark. She passed away peacefully with her loved ones surrounding her on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.
Robin specialized in the batik method of fiber art. Her unique, hand-painted and screen-printed shirts, dresses, paintings, postcards and banners are commonly spotted in Yellow Springs, but have shown up all over the world. She was so many things to those she knew — an expert planner and organizer, a gifted artist, an animal lover, a naturalist, a great friend and a successful independent woman.
Robin Zimmerman was born March 26, 1956, to parents Robert and Phyllis Zimmerman and raised in Beavercreek, Ohio. Robin credits her uncle Earl with instilling her with a love of nature. The two of them spent many hours walking through the rolling hills and woods of the Miami Valley, as well as northern Wisconsin, where her family spent summers on the lakes. She would later pass on this love of nature to her son during regular long walks in Glen Helen.
Robin graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She made a lifelong friend with her freshman roommate, Sara Gafvert. In turn, Sara introduced her to her many lifelong friends in Yellow Springs.
Robin leaves behind many who will cherish her memory, including sisters, Janet Zimmerman Dalton and Jo Zimmerman (Jerry) Timmons; son, Latham Zearfoss (Matthew Clark); nephews and nieces, Patrick Dalton, Stephanie Wohlfeil Dalton, Christopher Timmons, Peter Timmons; her beloved dog, Alice; and many close friends in Yellow Springs, Florida and Wisconsin. She was preceded in death by her parents, Robert and Phyllis Zimmerman; Jim Dalton, Katie Timmons and Dalton Wohlfeil; and uncle, Earl Brown.
Robin was a person of her own making. She created and supported herself with a fiber arts business that stretched from the lakes of northern Wisconsin to the gulf coast of Florida. She saw beauty in flowers, trees, rocks, animals and water. Her curiosity and artist’s eye drew her to the pyramids of Tikal in Guatemala, Africa, Russia, Australia and Great Britain. No matter the house she was in, there was always a view out her window, and it was always surrounded by nature and well-tended gardens. She held court with a tight circle of friends for whom she organized and planned social gatherings. Regular events included quirky themed parties, Halloween celebrations with costumes required, Sunday potlucks and celebrations for almost any birthday or milestone. There was the annual Kentucky Derby party, where guests paid a dollar for the chance to randomly draw a horse’s name from a hat as the preferred method of gambling. Every Christmas, there was a “white elephant” celebration that centered on a gag gift exchange, but would often also include feats of strength and the airing of grievances. These times were filled with laughter, good food and drink, and most importantly, friends enjoying time together. When Robin was diagnosed with cancer, in typical Robin fashion, she went about assigning tasks to her friends. She asked people to organize memorials in Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin. She made plans for the care of her beloved dog, Alice, and delegated other tasks that were needed.
Robin took on many jobs in her journey toward becoming an independent artist. In the beginning, she supplemented her art income with waitressing, being the weekend janitor at a local bar, and substitute teaching. Later, she was generous with her time and support. She often hired her friends to assist in her studio when they were running a little short on cash for one reason or another. Robin was always open to helping new artists find their footing in the art fair community. Robin impressed her family and friends with thoughtful interior design in her homes. While in Ohio, she gravitated toward farmhouse chic. After 28 years in Yellow Springs, Robin took to the “snowbird” lifestyle, going between a continually evolving rustic cabin on Lake Chaney in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and a historically registered mid-century modern bungalow in Bradenton, Fla., designed by Paul Rudolph. Robin could shop a flea market like no other, haggling for the perfect accoutrements for the two homes where she spent the last 15 years of her life.
Robin involved herself in her communities. She was a founding member of the Village Artisans cooperative and early supporter of Art on the Lawn. She was an original participant in the Yellow Springs Banner festival that would adorn the streets of Yellow Springs for many years. She designed and produced team T-shirts for a village frisbee team (Discos Volante) and a village softball team (The Wild Honers). She did a series of T-shirts inspired by a friend’s love of old VWs. The Glen Helen Association commissioned her banners on several occasions. The White House requested a Christmas ornament for the national tree. She won awards for her work from Washington, D.C. National Audubon Society; Pittsburgh, Pa. Aviary Art Show; as well as in art shows in Upper Arlington and Cincinnati.
Robin imparted her artistic sensibilities to all of us, encouraging us to pause and behold the everyday magic in a tangled wisteria vine filled with sparrows, or the muted beauty of rolling hills in winter. She was an encyclopedia of knowledge when it came to wildflowers, birds and many of the animal footprints she came across in her travels. She shared them with us all as she dressed us with her visions.
There will be celebrations of her life in Yellow Springs, in summer 2020, with the date to be announced later. Celebrations will be held at Sandbar Restaurant on March 19, 11 a.m.–1 p.m., on Anna Maria Island, Fla., and on May 31, beginning at 3:30 p.m. at Moondeer & Friends Gallery in Boulder Junction, Wisc.
In lieu of flowers. donations may be made to Glen Helen Association or the Sierra Club.