Robinson—Alan Scott Robinson, 67, on February 7, 2018, at Solace Hospice Care in Asheville, N.C., with his husband, David Russell Spicer, and a son, Daniel Robinson, at his side, two hours after a visit from his former partner, Jim Cavener. Alan was born on May 31, 1950, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Dorothy Ada Cromar and Charles Mardee Robinson. He loved learning, often—to his seven-child family’s distress—locking himself in their one bathroom to read from Encyclopedia Britannica. He studied astrophysics at University of Utah, and after a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Melbourne, Australia, he married Rebecca Louise Boes. He worked at Salt Lake City’s Hansen Planetarium, at New York’s Westchester County Planetarium, and in Glendale, Calif., researching and developing special effects as a Walt Disney Imagineer.
In 1983, he and two other Imagineers founded Water Entertainment Technologies (WET) Design; the firm created water features and fountains across North America, including at Bellagio Las Vegas, the Vancouver World’s Fair, the Atlanta Olympics, Dallas’s Fountain Place, Hearst Tower, Los Angeles Music Center, Chicago’s Navy Pier, Minneapolis Commons, Houston Galleria, Sacramento Capitol Promenade, and in a dozen foreign countries. They restored fountains at the Seattle Space Needle, Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Opera House (Lincoln Center).
After leaving WET Design he cofounded Watermark, creating a children’s garden at Longwood Gardens and maintaining the century-old fountains there. In 1998 the Smithsonian featured one of his projects on the cover of Fountains: Splash and Spectacle.
His projects used water, fire, smoke, steam, ice, and lighting, pioneering the use of compressed air rather than water pressure to send jets of water as high as 240 feet. He held patents for laminar flow streams and for water coming out of the paving blocks beneath the feet of enthralled observers.
Jim Cavener introduced him to Quakers at Claremont (Calif.) Meeting. After a clearness committee helped him sort out the path for his unusual family and his profession, he and Becky, their three youngest children, and Jim moved to Asheville, N.C., in a blended family. Alan served on the Ministry and Counsel Committee of Asheville Meeting and joined before becoming meeting co-clerk. He became treasurer of Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting.
After many years of marriage, he and Becky divorced. Alan and Jim were partners for two decades. Then Alan married David Russell Spicer under care of Asheville Meeting with Jim and Alan’s son Daniel present.
He enjoyed every issue of Scientific American and its articles on theoretical physics, tectonic geology, DNA discoveries, applied mathematics, and biomedicine. Exposed to HIV about 30 years ago, he outlived his survival expectancy several times over and maintained a productive and rewarding life in spite of celiac disease, bipolar disorder, peripheral neuropathy, hand and arm tremors, and sleep apnea. In summer 2017 doctors found he had myelodysplastic syndrome. After months of treatment, when doctors concluded that they could do nothing more, in early February he decided it was time to let go; he stopped eating and drinking and moved to hospice.
Alan’s parents; his oldest son, Samuel Robinson; and a brother, Norman Robinson, died before him. He is survived by his former wife, Rebecca Louise Boes Robinson; his husband, David Russell Spicer; his former partner, James Neal Cavener; four children, Christian Alan Robinson, James Rowlandson Robinson, Daniel Timothy Robinson, and Amy Elizabeth Trent; and a granddaughter. Asheville Meeting will hold a memorial meeting on Saturday, August 11, at 3:00 p.m. at 227 Edgewood Road, Asheville, NC 28801. RSVP, if possible, to [email protected] or 828-252-7666.