his Life

Here’s to Robby!


May 18, 1957 – September 25, 2020

“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis

If ever there ever were a greater gifter, you must let me know. As we know with the full of our hearts that had there been a competition for such a thing, our Robby - Robert David Assaf the Second-would surely win. Year after year, so creative was he – insightful, inspired, poignant in his gift of gift giving that one wondered which was better – the gift itself or the personal note included in his most beautiful penmanship.

Born in San Francisco, Robby had a poet's heart; a nature boy was he. The oldest of several siblings, he led the way with playfulness – never ceasing to enjoy running amok with his little brothers and sisters - even when they grew taller than he.

Ronny, Stephen, Roxane, Alessandra, Christopher and Tiffany all have stories that we never tire of -of Robby’s mirth and generous spontaneity.  He named his baby brother -eighteen years his junior - after the seagull Jonathan and Thoreau’s Walden.  He is reunited with Jonathan Walden† now – and we’re quite sure they’re misbehaving!

“The greatest oak was once a little nut that held its ground.”Unknown

After an awakening summer as a nature conservationist in Colorado when he was sixteen, Robby would become a fierce defender and lover of our Earth’s many natural wonders.  He went on to be the youngest graduate of his LSU class receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology at a mere twenty years old.

That degree was often the wellspring from which came many a piercing and stimulating conversation. He was a type of man you don’t readily see much anymore in this age of technology.  A host.  He knew how to entertain.  Your eyes wouldn’t – couldn’t – be drawn to a cell phone around him.   He could make the most seemingly trivial thing relevant and often profound, explaining why knitting was the craft of the fisherman; that a single votive sitting on a restaurant table was, in fact, an ancestral calling to gather round the campfire; the beauty of the gift that doesn’t last forever - a reminder to live in the moment, as romantic love, like the most memorable moments, is ephemeral.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

He was an embarrassment of riches, really.  You might think we exaggerate, but no.  He had beautiful hands and teeth, a great mane of hair, an elegant voice and was a lovely singer.  He could draw and would scribble off a compelling pencil sketch with skill and ease.  And oh! How he could cook! Yes. He kept us delighted on many fronts.

And, Robby was macho, but never too macho to dance; and while dancing was the one thing he could not do, he did it with such exuberance and abandon that you couldn’t help but get caught in the contagion.

Now, while he enjoyed the finer things in life-so much so that one might think the Robb Report was named for him -he loved his LSU Fighting Tigers, the Sunday Morning Show’s trumpets, Popeye’s Chicken, a good hot dog, and Count Dracula.  For Robby, Dracula was the most beautiful love story ever told, what with its themes of metamorphosis and being born a new each night with his friend the moon.  Guess who he was every Halloween!

New Year’s Eve, however, was his favorite holiday – again echoing his appreciation for new beginnings &new chances, and on this day, he’d celebrate his other alter ego.  Donned in tux and French cuffs, beautiful car and cocktails at hand, with a suave savoir-faire, off he’d glide toward midnight as none other than007.  He was always striving to be a better man.

“Where there is peace, let me sow love.”  -St. Francis of Assisi

Guided by the wisdom of St. Francis, Robby always said, “I’d rather for you than for me.”  He tried to bring and make peace by healing the hearts of those who may not have had the right intentions.

He had the ability to be truly happy for others. And vision.  He could see potential and craft the reality.  This skill served him well as both a restaurateur and Financial Advisor in New Orleans and Chicago.

“…for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow…” Kahlil Gibran

Robby is survived by his three children, and when it came to them, no thought went spared.  He made it a point to provide piano lessons before they could even read or write, as he knew it would cultivate their mental acumen.  He took a keen interest in their education, as he wanted to give them something no one could ever take from them.  From the sidelines he watched with pride as one by one they surpassed him in this regard.  Robby delighted in their personal accomplishments as graduates of Dartmouth, Spring Hill, and University of Denver. 
Soaring into the world, Alexander, Ariana, and Austin all remember their father for giving them grit; each blossoming on their own and taking on the world independently.

Robby loved babies and new life; therefore, it is no surprise, he got such a kick out of being a grandfather.  Three new little grandchildren made his heart smile: Ella Mae, nine; Jett Michael, five; and Emory Regan, eight and a half months.

“For love if it finds you worthy will guide your course.” - Kahlil Gibran

Indeed, Robby will be remembered as a mamma’s boy as he adored his mother Evy†.  They are reunited now.  In joy and peace and soft-spoken, attentive conversation, we are sure; those two had a very special connection.

When Robby last saw his father, Roberto, just a few days ago, PaPá sang to him in Spanish and promised they’d be playing billiards together soon.

Kasia – “his Kasia Linda” – the love of his life who stood by him tirelessly through his final battle, also survives Robby.  The final words he uttered on this earth were to her, “Good morning, Baby.”

“The only thing I know is this: I am full of wounds and still standing on my feet.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis

A complex and multi-faceted man, Robby’s body succumbed to a complexity of issues while in the care of a Chicago area hospital.

Persevering to the bitter end, with the spirit of a crusader, this Fighting Tiger fought with optimism and the mantra, “I am going to win,” emblazoned upon his lips. Robby did win as evidenced by the countless lives that he improved, the fighting spirit that he instilled within his family, and his own experiences in life. These accomplishments can only be attributed to one who has had a life that was fully lived—a life, like his death, which was a tour de force.

The last of Robby’s loves…

Robby loved New Orleans, and it seemed a fitting tribute that he answered his call home at 5:04 pm – 504 being the area code of his beloved hometown. He stepped to the other side as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” accompanied his crossing, loved ones there to receive him–his mother Evy, his brother Jonathan, his dear friends Chris Constantine and Jacques Mennis, et al.

Robby’s favorite animal was the dog, admiring them for their affection, loyalty and because they are devoted members of a pack.  We, his pack, will surely be lost without him. Robby left an indelible thumbprint on each of our hearts, souls, and minds; and though we are better for having known him, our missing him will match his impact.

As the pandemic prevents us from gathering to celebrate him, please do sign on here and add a tale or two…