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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Services tomorrow for 'Waterfront Man' Fred Robins

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Staff Writer

Services for "Waterfront Man" Fred E. K. Robins will be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Kawaiaha'o Church with visitation beginning at 2 p.m.

Robins, who died April 30 of a heart attack at age 67, was an institution on the Honolulu waterfront. He started as a stevedore to become manager of stevedore operations for Matson Navigation Co.

During his 45 years on the docks, he served as Aloha Week king in 1966 and as king for the Kamehameha Day parade in 1968.

The Hawaiian song "Waterfront Man" was written about Robins by terminal superintendent Harding Parilla of Hoalohalike, a musical group made up of Matson terminal superintendents. It was Robins who named the group Hoalohalike, which means "gathering of friends."

He was born March 28, 1934, in the stone lighthouse keeper's quarters at Kilauea, Kaua'i, where his father tended the light. When Robins was 5, his father became lighthouse keeper at Kalaupapa, Moloka'i.

Had Robins followed in his father's footsteps, he would have been a fourth-generation lighthouse keeper. But the life was too lonely for him, he said.

He went to McKinley High School in Honolulu, where he was a football star. Stanford University and UCLA offered him scholarships, which he turned down. After graduation he drove a truck briefly before hiring out for Castle & Cooke terminals as a stevedore.

Back then, loading was still done by hand, and Robins' physical strength became legendary. He worked deep in the holds of ships wrestling alfalfa bales and shoveling cotton seed. He worked his way up to operating the winch that swung the cargo pallets out of the holds, then to warehouse supervisor and stevedore superintendent.

In 1964, Robins joined Matson and in 1992 was promoted to manager of vessel operations. He lived in Waimanalo.

"He brought a genuine sense of aloha to our work force," said R. J. "Bobby" Pfeiffer, chairman emeritus, Matson Navigation Co., who worked with Robins since 1964.

Robins is survived by his wife, Kealiiaukai; seven children and 13 grandchildren. A private scattering of ashes at sea will be held on Thursday.