Paris Museum mourns loss of a beloved researcher

Tributes and condolences are pouring into the Paris Museum and Historical Society as members and friends learn of the death of beloved researcher Dale Robb.

She passed away in her home on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at the age of 80. To her fellow volunteers at PMHS, Dale was much too young-spirited to be called an octogenarian. She laughed frequently, dressed stylishly and dismissed her misfortunes – broken bones, sprains, lacerations and bruises – with a breezy wave of her hand.

It wasn’t that she underestimated the seriousness of these injuries. As a public health nurse she understood the cumulative damage falls and abrasions did. But she refused to let them define or limit her life.

To the small group of co-workers who joined her at the museum on Thursday afternoons, asking Dale was a more reliable way of getting the truth about Paris’ past than books or records. “If Dale said something was so, then it was,” said Norma Maus, a member of the Thursday crew. “I learned from experience, after looking something up, that she was right and I wasn’t – always took her word as gospel after that.”

“Our Thursday group will really miss her,” added Chris Galloway. “She was such a bright light and so kind-hearted,” added Patti Gladding.

Dale Robb, second from left with (left to right) Marie Williamson, Tina Lyon and Chris Galloway (image courtesy of Brantford Expositor)

Born Janet Dale Robb in the part of Paris now known as Upper Town, she grew up in the shadow of the old Town Hall located on Burwell Street. Her parents, the late William and Lydia Robb, who ran a nearby hotel, rose early to ring the town bell (now located on Broadway Street) that summoned workers to the mills.

Nothing delighted Dale more than recounting stories of Paris before many of her younger PMHS colleagues were born. One of her favourites featured the “penny candy” of yesteryear: black balls, jawbreakers, licorice pipes, marshmallow “peanuts” and chocolate-covered molasses. “That was before Paris had fluoridated water,” she wrote for the Paris Library in 1945. “Many of us have lots of fillings and lost teeth, probably due to these penny candy indulgences.”

Dale joined the Paris Museum and Historical Society in 2004. During her time with PMHS, she served as a Director for four years, gave historical presentations, edited the newsletter and provided walking tours with her long-time friend Marie Williamson. She contributed articles to the Paris Star.

It was her kindness that touched this writer. A couple of years ago, I fractured my pelvis in a bad fall. One of my first visitors, after I was released from hospital, was Dale. She offered empathy – knowing how a broken pelvis feels – and practical advice, staying to chat for at least an hour. I followed every tip she provided. I’m convinced my recovery was hastened by Dale’s guidance.

Her death was sudden and unexpected. When she met Marie for coffee on Sunday morning, she seemed fine. On Wednesday she was gone. Marie is “finding it hard to comprehend that she won’t be around anymore”. As are we all.

Former PMHS board chair Cate Breaugh offered this tribute: “A little piece of Paris history goes with her.”

A private graveside service will take place at Paris Cemetery. A celebration of Dale’s life will take place at a later date.

by Carol Goar