Kerttu "Geri" Robbins

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
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Kerttu (Geri) Robbins
Kerttu Marjetta Robbins (nee Salmi) passed away on March 17, 2020 at the Campbell House Hospice in Collingwood, Ontario just short of her 92nd birthday. Kerttu was fondly known as “Geri”.

Kerttu was born on March 19th, 1928 in Toronto of Finnish parents, Vaino and Katri Salmi.

She was the beloved wife of Jack (“Jake”) Arthur Robbins of 69 years. Geri met her future husband, Jake, in Collingwood at a dance in 1947, followed by a ski date the next day. It was an amazing partnership where they enjoyed many sporting, travel, life and family adventures together with their close friends and family. Jake and Geri have been iconic pillars of the Osler Bluff Ski Club since building their ‘Tremblant style’ cabin in 1957 at the base of the Slalom hill.

Beloved Mother of Derek (Val), Michael (Cecilia), Marilyn (Steve), and Lynda (Ken) and “Nanni” to grandchildren Hayden, Raewyn, Michaela, Brodie, Erik, Kevyn & Jeffrey and great grandchildren Olive, Juniper and Holden. And special grandmother to Courtney and Isabella, and special great grandmother to Emery and Landon. Geri also had a devoted love for all the family dogs over her lifetime.

Kerttu’s first passion was skiing. She was a long time instructor with the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance having taught with the Toronto Ski Club at Summit Golf Club starting in 1946, at Chantecler in the Laurentians for two years, and with Marg Aquilina’s travelling Toronto Ladies Ski Club over a period of 30 years.

Her other sporting passions included tennis and golf at the Donalda Club in Toronto, and Monterra Tennis Club in Collingwood, and golf at the Toronto Ladies and Mad River Golf Clubs.
But above all, was her love for family, of whom she was so very proud, and following and supporting their activities and accomplishments.

She maintained her love for her Finnish heritage both in Canada and on several trips to Finland with family, visiting relatives still living in Finland, including cousins Martti and Hannu Sunnell, and Eine Izotov and her son, Sasha.

The family would like to express special thanks to her team of wonderful caregivers, both Right At Home and private. Also, the caring team of professionals and volunteers at Campbell House and the staff at Osler Bluff Ski Club where she lived in the ‘cabin’ with Jake until her last week. The Robbins family would also like to thank all of the caring angels who provided gifts, sustenance and support to both Jake & Geri over more recent times.

Geri (“Nanni”) will always be remembered for her cheerful wave, warm and beautiful smile, her athletic abilities, and particularly her graceful and natural skiing style.

Donations in Geri’s memory can be made to The Hospice Georgian Triangle Foundation (Campbell House) or Collingwood General & Marine Hospital.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a future date at Osler Bluff Ski Club Clubhouse.

The Cardinal
Written by Mike Robbins on March 17, 2020
I would like to tell you the story of the cardinal and my Mom (affectionately known in recent years to all as Nanni) – Kerttu (Geri) Marjetta Robbins (nee Salmi), the little red headed, blue eyed Finnish girl with freckles.

Several days ago when Nanni was still able to watch out the window we had many visits on the bird feeder outside her window. It was the busiest morning for the feeder (every room at Campbell House Hospice has a beautiful large bird feeder placed directly out the window, sheltered amongst a few strategically planted trees). Nanni was tilted towards the window so she was watching; eyes open towards the window. I was not certain what she was actually seeing. But then she said something about a red bird. Then I looked out and saw a little finch with red on its’ chest. Shortly after that a big red cardinal came to feed.

That night when I stayed in the room with Nanni, the nurse and PSW came to move her at about 10:15pm. After that I went into the Murphy bed and Nanni seemed fairly calm and settled. A little while later I was just falling asleep and heard Nanni say my name – ‘Michael’. I jumped up in the dark and went over close to her face and asked if she was OK. This happened a number of times until about 12:30am when she went to sleep. A number of these times she kept talking to me about the red bird, asking if I had seen it or could see it. I kept reassuring her that it was dark and that we both had to fall asleep until morning light when hopefully the birds would come back. She seemed fixated on the red bird. Over these last weeks and days we have seen her fixate on one thing and keep repeating it so I thought that was what she was doing, having seen the red bird earlier that day.

This morning, when I arrived in Nanni’s room to join Marilyn after her night in the Murphy bed, Nanni was exhibiting signs that we did not have long. Missy left to go home and Cecilia arrived. We were talking about Poppa and whether he should come at this stage when the door opens and he walks in. We left the room to leave Poppa for a private moment with Nanni. A few minutes later we received a call telling us to come back into the room quickly.

Nanni had exhaled her last breath just before we got back to the room. Nanni had waited until Poppa was by her side holding her hand to let herself go.

Mike Fawcett of Fawcett Funeral Homes came to take Nanni’s body for cremation. As is the tradition at Campbell House they draped her under a quilt and walked her out the front door past all of us. They played the following Finnish lullaby as she was walked out the front door. This was a song I found in the last two days, and that we have been playing for Nanni by her bed.

Until today we had no knowledge of the English translation – we did not know what the Finnish lyrics meant. All we knew was the English subtitle – Sing to Me, and we loved the tune and the singer’s voice. When I arrived home I googled to find the Finnish lyrics and then google translated. Here are the approximate lyrics in English of the song ‘Laula Tytoo – Sing to Me’.

Little girl with blue eyes, redhead, rose mouth, sit on that knee, here 'is the Song of the Songs for you. Sing to me, Sing to others, to the world sing, not before its time our hearts are getting old. Sing the girl to not mourn the forehead is wrinkled, sorrow does not mind to break, hope your days brighten.

The Finnish folk musician who sang the version we played remarked under her youtube post the following explanation and partial lyrics:

“Sing to me, Sing to the others, Sing to the world! Because if you stop singing, your heart will become too old, too soon!”

For as long as I can remember, my dad used to sing this song to me. It is one of my first memories of him and it is also the last one. During the last weeks of his life it was my turn to sing this song to him!

We had no idea when we played this for my Mom, and only wished we had played it days or weeks earlier when she could have translated the words for us.

When we all stood at the front door watching as they loaded Nanni’s body in the vehicle Lynda was the first to hear a beautiful bird song. She wondered to herself if it could actually be a cardinal. Then we all looked up in the tree behind the entrance and there was the Cardinal singing its song!!!

When I got home I googled the spiritual meaning of a Cardinal and here is what I found:

What does it mean to see a cardinal?
A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. When you see one, it means they are visiting you. They usually show up when you most need them or miss them. They also make an appearance during times of celebration as well as despair to let you know they will always be with you.

Spiritual Messengers
To this day, red cardinals are one of the most common spiritual signs that people receive from Heaven. The word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo which means hinge. The cardinal is serving as the hinge on the doorway between Earth and Spirit, delivering messages back and forth.

The Cardinal on the bird feeder several days ago was Old Nanni. The Cardinal on the tree singing to us as the body was being placed in the vehicle was Nanni singing to us.

The Cardinal will now have special meaning to all of us.

Two Haiku Poems Written by Derek Robbins on March 17 and 18, 2020

The day our Mom passed
The sun rises again
To a world without Nanni
A wonderful life

On March 18 in Fort Langley BC at 5:30am a huge crescent moon was just above the southeast could see only one bright star above it.
Yellow crescent moon
Hanging low on the horizon
Mom's bright new star above
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Service Details

A Celebration of Life will be held at a future date at Osler Bluff Ski Club Clubhouse.


Donations are being accepted for: The Hospice Georgian Triangle Foundation.


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Kelly McConville Blair

Posted at 01:14pm
Geri was amazing. She was such a loving mother, wife and second mother to so many!! Jake, Derek, Michael, Marilyn and Linda my thoughts are with all of you and your families at this time. Like Jake she was always there for you and all of your friends--so interested in what we were doing and how we were doing. I can remember so many great nights staying with your family at the chalet at Osler and always felt like it was home. Your Mom was always there to welcome and have a great visit. I don't know that I ever saw her when she was not smiling and those blue eyes were not sparkling. She was very special indeed!
Mike and Derek your writings were so wonderful---a red Cardinal--Yes, so right! Thank you for sharing. We will celebrate her life together at the right time.

Knowles Lori

Posted at 09:39am
Mike & family:
What a lovely story of your mother and the Cardinal. I read it through and thought of her and all the times she smiled so beautifully at Osler. I thought a lot of your mum. I shall miss her; she was a skier and a role model I’ll always look up to. I know how hard it is to lose a parent. Take good care. Know that all of us in the (Stan) Knowles family are thinking of you and remembering Geri so very fondly.
Lori Knowles

Audrey Pady

Posted at 11:26am
To Jake and Family
I am sure you have a big hole in your heart over the loss of your wonderful life long partner, Geri, such a great lady and we will all remember her smile forever. So many memories of skiing together years ago. Thinking of you and stay safe in these difficult times.
Mike, I especially loved the Red Cardinal story.....lovely. Audrey Pady

Judith Crawford Rawley

Posted at 03:13pm
Such a great ski Mom. All the best to the family with so many wonderful memories.
Judy Crawford Rawley

Shawn and Bev McConville

Posted at 03:54pm
Our warm thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. Such a beautiful story you have shared. Jake, Derek, Mike, Marilyn, Lynda and the entire extended Robbins family - we don't need to tell you that Gerri was a one in a million!!! Gerri was so proud of all of you - especially her grandchildren. On the ski hill she was everybody's mom and we will miss her cheering as well as support she furnished everyone (including us crazy parents). Take Care Everyone!!! Shawn & Bev McConville.

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