Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) lead grounds man, Ronnie Robbins, is settling in to a new role, retirement, after completing 33 years of service with the district. Robbins originally worked at Rio Altura Elementary School, which is now the site of Riverbank Language Academy, for 10 years. Then he moved to Cardozo Middle School and spent a year and a half as the groundskeeper there. The rest of his 22-year career was spent as the lead grounds man for the school district, working at a variety of locations.
Robbins started out substituting in the maintenance department for Rio Altura Elementary School. After a year of service there, he was offered a full time position and then he advanced to lead custodian. His dedication and strong work ethic helped him move along in his career, ultimately taking over as the lead grounds man. Robbins said he really took pride in his work and gave “100 percent every day” that he was there.
Born in Hammond, Indiana, Robbins made his way to the West Coast with his family in the 1960s. He grew up in Riverbank and graduated from Riverbank High School in 1972. He currently resides in Oakdale with his wife of 38 years, Tami. They have two daughters, Stephanie Vargas and Kristy Halvorson, and six grandchildren. Robbins also coached wrestling at Cardozo and for a short time at Riverbank High School. He and his brother George Robbins also coached a little league baseball team in Riverbank.
Active in the community and enjoying his work, life nonetheless took a turn for the worse last year on Black Friday. On that Friday in November, 2011, Robbins was involved in a motorcycle accident near Knights Ferry. He had built a custom bike and decided to take it for a ride. He was rounding a curve in the roadway, he explained, when the kick stand opened up. The last thing he remembers, Robbins said, is his bike hitting a fence and then he was on the ground. He had full leather gear on which Robbins said he believes saved him from even worse injuries and he was also wearing a helmet. Robbins, however, sustained multiple injuries from the accident. He had several broken bones in his left wrist, two broken bones in his right arm and he crushed his shoulder.
“I have a constant ringing in my ear,” said Robbins of one of the lingering effects.
Since the accident Robbins has been slowly recovering but has also had to make many changes. He was planning to work for several more years, but due to the injuries from the accident, had to take an early retirement. It has been over a year and he still can’t do some things that used to be a simple task.
“I have just recently been able to snap my fingers again,” he explained.
Robbins added that the Riverbank Unified School District treated him well and that he made a lot of friends over the years while working there and serving on a number of campuses.
The one thing he will miss the most is the students.
“I really enjoyed being around the kids,” stated Robbins. “I watched them grow up.”