VIRGINIA’S APPELLATE GUILD SIGHS
(Posted July 26, 2021) We are all a little poorer today. Supreme Court of Virginia Clerk Doug Robelen’s years-long battle with cancer has ended. On Friday morning, Doug drew his last breath.
Others will recount his professional accomplishments, culminating in his appointment as Clerk a bit over two years ago. I choose instead to mention his unfailing professionalism, usually accompanied by a reserved but playful sense of humor. I’ll miss our conversations in which we asked about each other’s daughters, both of whom had the same name. “How’s your Caroline doing?”
When, as here, a ruthless disease claims a 55-year-old with much more life due to him, we naturally reflect on the tragedy of his family’s loss and on the pleasant memories of our interactions with a friend, now beyond our reach. As I’ve noted on this site, none of us are truly gone, even in death, as long as there’s someone out there who remembers us, and cherishes the memories.
I’ll add that a time like this is a good reminder to reach out to those you care about. Don’t wait. Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you have to say, “Thank you,” or “I apologize,” or “I love you” to a tombstone. Convey it now.
Doug Robelen’s style included one nod to tradition: He predominantly wore bow ties. A couple of generations ago, bow ties were the mark of the three professions: doctors, lawyers, and architects. My grandfather, Stan Emmert, was an architect and I always saw him wearing one; I always wear one on his birthday. Today I’m wearing such a tie in Doug’s honor.
On February 25, 2019, the Supreme Court held a ceremony to mark Doug’s elevation from Chief Deputy Clerk to Clerk of Court. A few of his friends managed a low-level conspiracy – we wore bow ties to the event. Someone had the foresight to snap a photo of those conspirators; it’s reproduced below, with Doug occupying the place of honor in the center. Rest well, my brother; your pain is at an end.