Friends, family remember woman known for contagious laugh

Five years ago, Bedford residents John and Robyn McGilvary rode their motorcycle from New Hampshire to Wyoming.

“My brother’s kids were in a rodeo out in Wyoming, so Robyn and I and our friends traveled across the county,” John McGilvary said. “We were going through some mountains, and you could see over the edge. I was cruising along, maybe going around 40, and Robyn kept saying, ‘Go the speed limit.’ So I slowed down.” A smile comes to his face. “We finally had a line of 10 cars behind us and she starts saying, ‘Go faster’. That was one memory I have of a great trip.”

Last April, Robyn McGilvary died from ovarian cancer at age 52. She had no symptoms and had been going to the doctor regularly for checkups. After complications from a recent surgery, she went to the doctors to discover that she had Stage 4 ovarian cancer.

“It was very aggressive,” John McGilvary said.

On Saturday, July 21, John McGilvary, his family and friends will remember Robyn with a 75-mile motorcycle ride to the Kona Mansion in Moultonborough. All riders and non-riders are invited to attend.

“You don’t have to own a motorcycle to come,” McGilvary said.

So far, more than 50 people will be making the trip. The group will leave at 10 a.m. from the Macy’s parking lot in Bedford.

“There will be a pig roast, golf, and people are invited to spend the night,” McGilvary said. “One of my friends has a house in Moultonborough, and Robyn and I used to take rides up there. We were always riding on the weekend, all across New Hampshire.”

McGilvary owns McGilvary John R & Sons florist shop on South River Road in Bedford. He moved to Bedford from Woburn, Mass., at age 18 with his father, who started the florist business.

“I moved up here at first and absolutely hated it.” McGilvary said. “All my friends were in the Woburn area, and back then, there was nothing to do up here.”

Over the following years, McGilvary became serious with Robyn, who was still living in Woburn.

“Her cousin was a good friend of mine in high school, but I thought she was too young.” McGilvary said. “I was 18, and she was 16.”

The two married in 1978 and soon started a family in Bedford. McGilvary worked at his family’s florist business, while Robyn worked at Riddle Brook Elementary School.

“Her brothers thought she was moving to the woods,“ McGilvary said. “To say she was a good person is an understatement. You had to know her; Robyn loved her job.”

Robyn was close friends with the secretaries and staff at Riddle Brook. According to McGilvary, Robyn and her friends were known as the “Cackle Club.”

“It was Robyn’s friends who pushed me to organize this ride,” McGilvary said. “It was one of those things that I wanted to do, but the girls – Kristen, Erin, Paula, Denise, Venescia, Linda and Liz – really pushed.”

As McGilvary reminisces about his life with Robyn in Bedford, the song “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds comes on the radio. McGilvary smiles and shakes his head.

“Whenever this song comes on, I always feel like Robyn’s talking to me,” McGilvary said. “One day, in the wake of her death, the emotions were still very raw for me and still are. I was thinking about a lot of things, and this song came on. I felt as if she was trying to speak to me.”

All proceeds from this event will sponsor Robyn’s brother, Tim De Rosa, who will be riding in his fourth Pan-Mass Challenge, an athletic charity fundraiser, from which 100 percent of rider fundraising goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. According to a letter De Rosa wrote to his sponsors, De Rosa has helped raise a combined $19,968 for Dana-Farber in the last three years of his participation in the PMC.

“Last year, in April, I lost someone very special to me, my sister, Robyn. I am sad about this loss, but I am grateful to have known this remarkable lady,” De Rosa wrote in the letter. “Robyn had a beautiful smile and an unmistakable laugh, which was contagious. She made friends wherever she went. She had a heart of gold. Robyn is the reason I need to help raise money to fight cancer.”

De Rosa went on to quote Charles Marshburn, “They say when an Angel misses you they toss a penny from heaven.” De Rosa’s wife recently found a penny behind their stove, and the date was 1958, the year Robyn and her twin brother were born.

The cost for the ride is $40 per person and includes an event T-shirt and pig roast, which will be held at noon. There also will be a cash bar, and if participants are interested in spending the night, accommodations may be made through Kona Mansion. Tents also are allowed. Any questions may be emailed to rideforrobyn@yahoo.com.

If residents are interested in contributing to the PMC, they can make a donation by visiting www.pmc.org or De Rosa’s PMC profile page and clicking “Donate to my Ride.”

“I bumped into a friend of Robyn’s the other night. I didn’t know her, but she knew me through Robyn.” McGilvary said. “She told me her kids never had Robyn at Riddle Brook, but she was a fan.”

Katelyn Dobbs can be reached at 594-6549 or kdobbs@nashuatelegraph.com.