Wednesday, April 12, 2017


1) A positive retrospective look at my family growing up 

The year was 1975. I was watching the Wimbledon finals with my mom. In front of me was the epic battle between Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe (See the match on YOUTUBE by clicking link HERE). A glance outside the window was a beautiful view of Bear Creek Lake near the Poconos in NE PA.

 Me current day  March 2017

This is where our "tennis family" began. It was inspired by my mother who introduced us to the sport. Above is the tiny island known as "Hutter's Island... affectionately named after the Hutter family.

Pictured above are the Robbins: Bill, Judy, Rob, Don. Mark (me), Scott

 Engagement between Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors gives lessons in Boca Raton for the "discounted" (ha!) price of $ 500 per hour. Not a tennis player? He will have lunch with you at the same rate!!

Evonne Goolagong (above) and Chris Evert and Arthur Ashe (below)

So... the year was 1975. A black man won the Wimbledon title. Did racism rear its ugly head? I don't know. I was 12 at the time and can remember my mom overjoyed at Ashe's victory. Despite living in an area (NE PA) not known (to say the least) for its diversity I never once heard a racist remark from my mother or father. Not once. Ever. I was brought up without this ugly scourge. The only African Americans I came in contact with were cab drivers in Washington DC (Redskin weekends!). I can vividly remember my dad having conversations with these drivers... even asking about their children. My father was always generous with his tips.

I will redirect the subject back to the phenom known as Don Robbins (my older brother).  Whether it was a tennis racket, a baseball bat, a ping pong paddle, or a golf club... Don Robbins was the master. Few people alive had the talent of Don Robbins across multiple sports. He was at his best with a "stick" in his hand.

Beautific Bear Creek Village (NE PA) is where it all began. 
Don Budge Tennis Camp served as a foundation for many of us. But in truth we were mostly self taught. Grit and practice. 
Our early "tennis mates" included Frank Reap, Paul Lumia, Paul Updike, George Albert (Sr), the Tanski brothers,, and Peter Mailloux from time to time. (Sorry...  I cannot remember everyone!)

The Sem tennis team Pictured Left to right from top Norman LyonsMark Robbins (me), Bill Burak (Urologist), Don Robbbins (Professor at Flagler College,), Tom Christman, Dick Hughes (current President Judge), Joe Kluger (Atty and Borad member on various enterprises), Charle Parkhurst (all everything... even dated two Homecoming Queens), and Coach O.C. Lull (The Sem  courts are now named after him)/   Also in similar years... Rob RobbinsJoe D'agrosaLiz Kluger (Atty), Danny Kluger. and Lisa Caputo (Hilary's former press secretary), Andy Nelson (sadly and tragically decesaed)... and a special shout out to Scott Parkhurst who ranked among the top players and whose twin sons have taken after his dad..

Don Robbins emerged in college... and a match between Charles Parkhurst and Don Robbins match would have been the local equivalent to Nadal / Federer. My opinion was the my brother Don was the best tennis player in local history at the time. His topspin turned a round yellow ball into an egg shape giving it a "kick" that had his opponents feel like they were swatting flies.

No one never matched Don Robbins at the ping pong table either... once again using extraordinary top spin to take out any opponent.

One area fellow after our stint played pro (legitimate USTA) and his name escapes me. His father was on Luzerne County City Council. Other local players that challenged and some who exceeded us in our youth were were Dave Battle, Dave MaCyntire, Joe Kaminski, Bill Ziegler, Jim Blinn, and Judd Davis, Scott Parkhurst, Stan Marchak, Don Cassetori, and Mike Hromchak, and Mike Last (WNEP TV)... and Lisa Caputo, Lynn Swainbank. and Carol Walcavage stood out as the lady players.

Tennis in the Wyoming Valley always felt like a tight knit fraternity. Very colorful people!

Pictured left to right from top: Don Robbins, Andy Neslon, Charles Parkhurst, Don Robbins, Mark Dolph, Danny Kluger, John Wartella, Joe Kluger, Dick Hughes

My brother Don's game (and mine to a lesser extent) took off when he attended Don Budge Tennis Camp where his top spin took form. Both my brother Don and I (Mark Robbins) excelled in athletics and in the classroom. We were both Cum Laude Graduates from Wyoming Semoinary prep school. Don attended William and Mary and I attended Wake Forest where I played 10th (in the ACC) my freshman year. Don played 4th at William and Mary.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about Don's golf exploits. Don was the golf coach at Flagler College for years. Donny actually earned prize money for winning a pro tournament in Florida and is one of the few people capable of beating Steve Spurrier (the ole ball coach). Don described Spurrier as the most competitive person he has met.


Wednesday, Sep 9 1999 (7:30 PM) Melbourne, Florida
I arrived home from work at 7:30 after a long day’s work. Carly was just hanging up the telephone as I entered. “Mark, I just got off the phone with Judy Houser… you remember, the social worker that performed the home study for our planned international adoption. She just phoned to tell us that there are 9 month old twin boys available for adoption here in Melbourne. The family traveled here from Tennessee. She wanted to know if we wanted to visit with them and entertain the idea of adopting them.”

For some strange reason, amidst the flurry of work issues in my head, I was able to rapidly assimilate the proposal. It’s the big things I can process such as adopting kids , brain surgery (which I did have for those that don’t know me too well) – but sometimes it’s the little things, like taking out the garbage, that can overwhelm me. In any event… I said “Sure, Carly, it can’t hurt to meet them. We can be over there by 9 PM.”

So off we went. On the drive over, my mind was filled with projections… how would we get clothes/cribs on such short notice? What if we don’t bond with them?… What about my work? … What’s the criteria for choosing children after a single visit.? A tight ball of fear lay in my belly. We entered the room, along with the social worker and an associate from the adoption agency, and warmly introduced ourselves to the birth parents. My immediate impression of the birth parents was that they were gentle, hardworking folks doing the best they could to care for six children. One was asleep in the crib; the other was doing a “backward crab walk” across the bed.

One of the boys was then awakened and Carly and I played with the two boys for an hour – interspersed with questions/answers between the birth parents and us. One of the twins took a real liking to Carly as he sat up in her arms – mesmerized as he stared up at her. We left around 10:30 PM. Being that the birth parents had to soon return to Tennessee and that other couples were interested in meeting the children – we had to make a decision by noon the next day.

Thursday, September 10 1999 (7:00 AM)

Carly and I woke up in a daze. I can remember feeling physically nauseous over the import of the decision we faced. We shuffled and bantered about the house as we readied for the day – both of us resisting the daunting task that lay before us – making a lifetime decision. We were looking for a sign.

Boys two and four at rodeo 

We called our minister and laid out the details in front of him. We certainly did not expect him to make the decision for us, but we were looking for his guidance and validation of our thought process. He helped frame the event from a broader perspective. He helped allay our fears of becoming “instant parents,” as he suggested that parenting is the most demanding job in the world for which few are adequately prepared. He observed that Carly and I were committed and respectful of each other and that we could bring to the boys only that which we have developed in ourselves.

A few minutes later the social worker called to check in with us. It was at this point that it was revealed the boys’ birthdays were December 20 – the same date as our anniversary date. Immediately I thought to myself – “A sign!! … A sign from God!! … They’re ours !! It was also revealed that this day (September 10) was the anniversary date of the passing of my Grandmother. The pieces started falling into place. We had originally planned to go to Russia to adopt two siblings – and here twin boys dropped in our lap. We would adopt them !! 

Thursday, September 10 1999

We contacted our friends and exclaimed, “Can we borrow some children’s car seats right away, we are adopting twin boys in the next half hour!!” After our friends picked up their jaws from the ground, we were provided the car seats and we were off to the adoption agency.

As we were awaiting the paperwork to be processed, we had a chance to spend some more time with the birth parents. Carly and I were flattered to hear that the birth parents were more comfortable with us and had chosen us over other couples who had visited. The obvious question soon arises in people’s minds is “How could they possibly relinquish these two adorable boys?”

My boys and I (Coach of basketball)

Their response was that they simply weren’t able to provide the necessary time and attention that all of their children deserved and still make ends meet. Carol and I accepted the explanation at face value and concluded that their decision was carried out through their hearts and the through the guidance of their God. Carol and I chose to believe that in many respects, they are performing the greatest form of love for their children by doing what they feel will be for the highest good for these two young boys.

Me April 2017

The most emotional moment came at the point of separation. The process was set up so that, though the birth parents met with us, they were never made aware of our names nor our residence. The attorney handling the process, in attempt to substantiate closure and to emphasize that a firm accord had been realized, stated “Please say your good-byes now.”

  My son dressed as a nerd... funniest costume ever !!  

I could feel my heart sink to my stomach. After the parents tearfully planted kisses on the cheeks of the boys, Carly and I, now crying along with the birth parents, embraced them and guaranteed that we would care for the children to the best of our abilities. In the short time we spent with the birth parents, we formed a real kinship and respect for each other and as a result, Carly and I feel tasked to do whatever it takes to provide an environment in which the boys can thrive.

Thursday, September 10, 6:00 PM

Carly and I arrived home with the boys and it quickly became apparent that word had spread about our “acquisitions.” Friends from the neighborhood and our church, as well as Carly's friends from her activities (Junior League, Book Club, Guardian ad Litem program), poured into our home that evening with food, diapers, toys, cribs, playpens, clothes, shoes, highchairs, strollers etc… Carly and I were overwhelmed by the love and support we received. It felt like an Amish barn-raising! We are blessed to have such solid, trusting friends and we couldn’t have been more thankful and appreciative.


Next came the immensely pleasurable task of telephoning our families to share the wonderful news. Once the initial shock wore off, their next comment was “When’s the next flight to Melbourne?” Much later that night, with our hearts overflowing, Carly and I retired for bed with the firm belief that all of our needs would be taken care of.


Namesakes for Billy and Jack (Grandfathers)
Grandparents Judy and Tim Mack (I don't have a picture of)

Can you find my twin boys amidst 9 grand kids at the Mack house (grandparents)?
UPDATE:  Both of my tMy twin boys live in South Florida near their near me (the dad) and are freshmen in college.

The Boys and their mom

Almost current day

The pictures above was taken minutes after Don and my dad laid eyes upon my newly adopted twin boys.

Me Current day