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Mr.Thornton’s Speech

mrt-speechI am honored that the Atherton family will allow me to share my memories of Robby.
As we mourn the passing of Robby, I reflect back to the earlier years when our boys began their journey together on the Shelby Sharks baseball team. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this wasn’t only about baseball.
I remember when the boys were 10 yrs old competing in their first major tournament in Rockford, Illinois. That week was special because looking back, it was the beginning of the most incredible time of my life.
At the start of that journey, we as parents were focused on teaching and molding our kids into competitive young baseball players. In the process, the boys began friendships that turned into much more than that, these boys were like brothers.
All of our kids loved each one of us parents as one of their own. We, as parents, looked at each one of the kids as one of our own children. This is why this is such a loss; we all view Rob as part of our family.
The players and their families were truly blessed by the friendships that developed on and off the field. Our boys understood the definition of “teamwork.” I believe that these qualities were instilled by Bryan, as he coached our boys through life. He taught them to be smart, competitive, and have a never give up attitude, which happened to be the heart of Robby.
This competitive spirit showed up with us fathers instead of the boys. Bryan and I thought we would expand our coaching talents by adding our daughters, Megan and Megan (otherwise known as Megan Squared), to our coaching resume. We had no problems instilling a competitive edge within our sons. Our girls, was a whole different story.
I will never forget the night when Bryan and I were coaching our girls in what we believed to be a VERY intense game of basketball. Apparently, the referee didn’t approve of our overly-competitive coaching style, and threw us out of the game. Not only out of the gym, but the building too. While Terry and Marianne cringed with embarrassment, Michael and Robby thought it was awesome that their fathers got kicked out of the building and left them with the coaching duties. Coincidentally, Rob inherited his father’s competitive edge which was evident through his high school career.
I knew this better than anyone from my vantage point along side of the wall in Ike’s gym. Robby and I had a game time ritual. Before every game, Rob would come by to see me and I would tell him that “I can’t stand the team we are playing” and he would get a big kick out of that and go tell the other players that “Mr. T hates these guys.” He would then come back around and slap my hand for good luck. Small little memories like this will last forever.
Robby and I had a special relationship which was evident last football season when he called me from the tailgate wondering where I was. We talked briefly, but the one thing that stuck in my mind is when I said “I love you, Rob” and he said “I love you too, Mr. T.”
I know Rob has touched my life and I now he has touched all of you. We are all going to take a little a bit of Rob with us after today. It is reassuring to Robby’s family and friends that his legacy will continue.
He feels the love from everyone here and wants all of us to smile because the Lord had just called him up before him and said? Welcome Home Rob – Job Well Done

Ryan’s Speech

ryans-speechThe first thing I want to say is the 4 of us, Mike, Joe, Steve, and I, are really honored to talk about how much we love Robbie and how much he loved us. When I was 4 years old my family received a blessing. This blessing came in the form of our new next-door neighbors, Bryan, Terry, Rob, and Megan Atherton. It was in this blessing that my family was joined with Rob’s. And it was over the next few years that we would realize this blessing.
Whether it was through a trip to Cedar Point or our two trips up north, the second of which was spoiled when I prematurely blurted out my family’s plans to move out of the house next-door, needless to say the Athertons were not happy. Or whether it was just a regular day in our lives that was made so much more special because Rob and his family were a part of it. That’s what made Robbie such a blessing, he made everything he was a part of that much better.
Now, admittedly, it was a difficult for me to realize over the years considering the great deal of physical injury he caused me. Whether it was convincing me to climb a rope made of toilet paper which led to my broken arm, or my concussion as a result of the special nudge I was given while we were sliding on ice; a nudge I can only attribute to an act of jealousy because the one and only thing that Robbie couldn’t do is skate.
Anyways, after all of this, I still realized the blessing, I had a great family that was made even better because of Rob; and I was made better because of him. Without Rob, I would not have been able to fool anyone into thinking I was good at much of anything athletically. And for that I am grateful. It was Rob who showed me how to dribble a basketball, how to catch a football, how to hit a baseball, and believe it or not he made me as good of an athlete as I could be, as pathetic as that sounds. And it was also Rob who would make the terrible choice of me over so many better options to play on his team for so many years, just so I could be happy when we won, because we all knew if you were on Robbie’s team, you were on the winning team. But more important than helping me, Rob showed every one of us how to be great at something.
I can’t imagine a better person to have in my life. Rob has been there for so many of us and I can’t thank him enough for the impact he has had on my life, as well as so many others. And I, as I’m sure many of you, consider myself blessed in every sense of the word that Rob is part of my life, as he always will be.
I’m a better person because of you, Rob. You are the rock that has always and will forever get me through the day.
I don’t love you like a brother, I love you as my brother.
Rest in Peace my buddy.

Michael’s Speech

michaels-speechFor most here today, Robbie as a high school basketball star will be some of your fondest memories of him. For others, memories of Robbie as a Michigan State Spartan will stand out most. But for me, my best memories of Robbie go a little further back.
I was nine years old when I first met Robbie. His father was starting a baseball team and asked if I would play. So began some of the very best years of my life. I remember one time a couple of years later when Robbie, Ronnie Gross, Kent Fiott and I were playing 2 on 2 in the driveway at Kent’s house. I learned a valuable lesson that day- it is always better to be on Rob’s team. Of course I had to find out the hard way. It was Ronnie and I against Robbie and Kent. We were playing a best of 5 series. Okay, so Ronnie and I lose the first game, no big deal. Then we lose the second, and the third. You can only imagine how much fun Robbie was having with this. And as if that wasn’t enough, Robbie found it necessary to go into the house, grab a broom, and sweep the driveway while chanting, “You got Swept!!!” I think I went home and put up 500 jump shots. Robbie sure knew how to motivate. My girlfriend Julie always tells me, “You just hate to lose Mike.” Every time I hear that I smile and think to myself, “Just play sports with Robbie all your life like I have and he’ll teach you how to hate losing too.”
Robbie’s competitive spirit rubbed off on all his friends. When in junior high, we’d often play pickup basketball before school started- Robbie’s idea of course. We’d be in the gym at 6 in the morning with the guys beating the daylight out of each other. Rob and I were usually on separate team (I know what you’re thinking- he must not have learned his lesson). Anyway, I ignored the lesson I learned in Kent’s driveway and seemed to always go head to head with Robbie. At this point in time I was twice Robbie’s size, which made things fair. Usually the morning would end early because either Rob or I would lose and therefore freak out, causing Mr. Greenup, who would already be in the gym running at this time, to cut us off for the day.
Another time with Robbie and I that I will never forget was baseball tryouts in 9th grade. Rob and I were facing one another, both of us on one knee, doing some sort of throwing drill. Throwing drills, especially uncomfortable ones, were not on top of Robbie’s priority list. So as soon as Coach Crowell left us to check on the players in the other gym Robbie gave me a smirk and said, “You thinking what I’m thinking?” Next thing you know we’re in a classroom catching up on scores since it just so happened to be the first day of the NCAA tournament. Checking to see if our brackets were still in tact happened to be more important to us at the time than baseball tryouts. Somehow we never got caught, not that it really mattered. Robbie would’ve talked both of us out of trouble. And if for some reason he was off his game, he would at least make sure to get me out of trouble. That’s Robbie for you, always taking care of his friends. Nothing meant more to Robbie than his family and friends, and when I say friends, I mean family. Robbie took a group of friends and made them into something more. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am to be part of that family. We will always love you.

Joey’s Speech

joeys-speechI’ve known Robbie since 7th grade but we really started to get close in 9th. I remember to start that year I was just kind of an acquaintance with all these guys, and every Monday in class I would hear stories about what fun things they did all weekend. But even back then Robbie was larger then life and I was nervous to start going out with all them. Robbie was the first person who invited me into the group so I could start hanging out with them on the weekends. Then a couple months later, after we had our 9th grade basketball banquet, I had the first team sleep over and that’s kind of how the Madden family and Joey’s basement began.
My basement was the place where the Madden Family was born. A group of 15 guys who would spend 5 hours a day playing Madden. A group of guys that when the new Madden would come out each year all the girls would roll their eyes and tell us “see you guys in 2 months.” And after weeks of playing the game every day and thousands of matchups, we would name a winner. Robbie accomplished more in his 22 years than most people would in a hundred, but if you asked him what his biggest accomplishment was, he might just say being the 2004 Madden Super Bowl champ. Especially if Daiza asked him.
We called ourselves and we still are the Madden Family, M4L for short. I know we all sounded like dorks but we really knew we were family. We all loved Robbie and he loved us all so much he actually wrote M4L on his basketball shoes.   Here was the MAC player of the year scoring 20 points a game and he had Madden for life on his shoes. That’s the way Robbie was, he was the most loyal person in the world and such an amazing friend. Without Robbie I’m convinced the Madden Family would of never happened. Rob you made me the person I am today and you made this group of guys who we are too. There is a lot of you in all of us.
When summer started so would the Volleyball. A game the whole group started playing after our Spring Break in Panama City, Senior Year. Me and Robbie where always partners for the 2 on 2 volleyball games and eventually named ourselves Spirit Fingers. A name taken from the manly, guy movie Bring it On. Everyone knows that Robbie did all the work and all I did was stand by the net and be tall. In the last 4 summers Spirit Fingers only lost one game and now we are going out on top and all you guys will never get your shot to finally beat us.
Robbie always knew he was welcome at my house. He knew it so much that during the summer when he worked at Alwards grocery store, he used to get ready for work in the morning at his house so his parents would see him. Then he would leave, call in sick and sleep in his car until I would wake up so he could come over for the day. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. A I never told you about that one.
Robbie was a larger than life character and one of the only people I feel I really looked up too.   He was a great friend and he always wanted us to be happy and if we ever got in trouble he would try to take the blame, there are two times he did that for me that are still very clear in my mind. When Robbie was with you, you knew it wouldn’t be just an average day. It had to be 10 games of Volleyball or 5 hours of Madden. And trust me if he lost it was going to be even more.   With Robbie every day was great. Robbie left 15 guys here who if you asked them they would tell you Rob was standing up in their wedding. And that is just a glimpse of how many lives he has touched. These last couple months Robbie kept saying how sad he was that everyone was growing up and starting to spread out. His passing is going to be his last gift to us. A reminder of what is really important in life and making sure the Madden family will be staying together forever. Robbie the family loves you and we will never forget you. High School was the best years of my life. We love you bro and miss you.

Mr. Lemley

mrlemley-speechYesterday morning when I was trying to decide what shirt to wear, I noticed one that still had a tag on it.  When I realized what shirt it was, I knew why the tag was still on it………It said Michigan State Basketball.  Those of you who know me know that I am a Michigan fan.   Of course, the shirt no longer has a tag.
On a day when tears and heartache are with us all, I want to celebrate a young man’s life and how he touched so many.  I will remember a shot at Romeo, the Romeo signs with Malcolm’s face, a competitor who never wanted to lose, a kid who loved to wear slippers, a friend to many, a kid who knew how to always make you smile, a natural born leader, and a true sports fan who loved anybody who was playing Michigan.  Robby now has the best seat in the house.
During his playing days, Robby received many standing ovations.  To pay tribute to Robby, I would like everyone to stand up and let’s give him one more.

“An Emptiness Full of Memories”

No one really understands why

It is like watching the day turn into a dark sky.

One day everyone is smiling and laughing

Then suddenly in a blink of an eye, an awkward silence.

Death strikes all of us with a great pain

Even though, people are now in a better place.

As stories and memories fly through my mind

I just keep asking myself, how I will go on.

Listening to the music brings tears to my eyes

But nowhere near like the dirt hitting the casket.

I wake up in the middle of the night tossing and turning

Always asking myself, is it because of you?

No one ever prepares for this type of loss

But I wonder what one more day could bring us?

The most emotional and passionate player I know

Now will make each step on the court mean that much more.

Everyone always talked about the heart you had

Now that you are gone, I feel as though I have lost part of mine.

Players are supposed to learn from their coaches

But what I learned from you was much greater than any.

I will always remember two moments;

A hug after winning a championship and the last hug we ever shared.


2004 Macomb County Player of the Year

mc-player-of-yearAdvertising slogans have been a part of our culture…(his cell phone rings) Excuse me.   Hello.   “Can You Hear Me Now?”  As I was saying, advertising slogans have been a part of our culture as long as basketball has.  Maxwell House coffee was “Good to the Last Drop”, back in 1916.  United Airlines encouraged us to “Fly the Friendly Skies” as early as 1966.  And Wendy’s hamburger lovers wondered “Where’s the Beef?” in 1984.  Slogan writers and basketball players make a perfect match; one that presents all kind of possibilities for the marriage of commercial and atletic enterprise.
Someone in 1935 described Cambell’s Soup as “M’mm, M’mm Good”. Those words might just as well have been intended for one of Macomb County’s top basketball players. His spontaneous, yet carefully crafted game could have been claimed by slogans like “Just Do It” and “Be All You Can Be”. This ultimate driving machine fueled his team with uncommon wisdom and an outward display of passion that said, “I Love This Game”.  “He’s our senior leader, ” his coach said after an important victory. Indeed, he was “Like A Rock”, the “Snap, Crackle and Pop” of his team. The key shot, the big steal, the pressure pass; when it absolutely, positively had to be there he kept “Going and Going and Going”.
How about the night the league MVP scored 23 points to lead his school to a District Tournament Championship. Or the night he made the go ahead basket with 52 seconds left and finished with 19 points in a Regional Tournament Semi-Final victory. Or the game in which he scored 20 points to help his team capture a first Regional Championship in 24 years. He was the “Quicker Picker Upper,” “The Real Thing” and smart, very, very smart. His points per game – 15. His assists and rebounds per game – 7 and 7. The impact he made “Priceless”. Among school records he set were those for most steals in a season – 101, most assists in a season – 155 and most assists in one game – 14. He helped his school lead Macomb County in defensive scoring average.
“A Diamond is Forever” and so is the confirmation of his great season. One that yielded the second highest victory in school history, a District Championship and the first Regional Championship for his school since 1980. It’s so simple – the 2003-2004 Macomb County Basketball Player of the Year Award is in “Good Hands” with Robby Atherton from Eisenhower High School.
George Pohly Macomb Daily March 30, 2004

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