When Jim Robey and his longtime friend Bob Koverman got together, there was plenty of hunting and fishing going on – from the woods in Vinton County to the shores of Lake Okeechobee. They hunted deer and birds and fished for bass, walleyes and whatever would bite.
“There wasn’t anything Jim didn’t know about the outdoors,” said Troy resident Koverman. “I have always been an outdoors guy and think I am pretty knowledgeable about the outdoors, but I would be out fishing with Jim and he would hear a bird sound and right away he would tell me what kind of bird it was. I learned something every time I went fishing or hunting with Jim.”
Sadly, those days are now just memories. Jim Robey died on Nov. 25 at the age of 81.
Mr. Robey grew up in Columbus, the son of George Robey, outdoor writer for the Citizen-Journal and one of the founders of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio. Perhaps it was destiny that after graduation from Ohio State and a short stint with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Jim Robey would settle in Dayton as outdoor writer for the Journal Herald. That was in 1963. When the papers merged, he continued as outdoor writer for the Dayton Daily News until his retirement in 1993.
During those 30 years Jim Robey set the standard for Ohio outdoor writing. He went everywhere in Ohio and neighboring states and took part in just about every outdoor activity. A man of endless energy he helped found the Dayton chapter of Ducks Unlimited, organized annual fishing safaris for Journal Herald readers, put on outdoor shows, ran an annual big fish contest and authored a series of books entitled Ohio Fishing Guide. Early in his career his writing about conditions on the Little Miami River led to the first clean-up of the river that eventually achieved national and state Scenic River status. In fact it was the first Scenic River in Ohio.
He was a competitive person, despite his calm demeanor. He enjoyed playing basketball, although he was only 5-9. He was also an avid golfer and played often with other staffers from the newspaper.
“The first time we invited Jim out to play golf with us, he showed up wearing gym shoes,” said Bucky Albers, Jim’s longtime friend and retired sports reporter for the Dayton newspapers. “Of course we were all wearing golf shoes, so we kind of snickered at him. After that, he went out and beat all of us.”
Despite his competitive side, Jim Robey was not just a gentleman, but more accurately a gentle man
Ritter Collett, the late Hall of Fame former Journal Herald sports editor, used to tell people Jim Robey was the nicest person they will ever meet.
Of course, most of the people in southwest Ohio knew Jim Robey through his regular newspaper columns. He wrote about everything outdoors from hunting and fishing to boating and hiking or just enjoying nature while sitting in the woods. His flowing, sittin-on-the-back-porch-story-telling style brought the outdoors indoors to every reader.
In 2004, when he was selected as man of the year for the Dayton Ducks Unlimited chapter, he said this about his career: “To me there have been two great things: the chance to be involved with hunting and fishing and outdoor conservation and also the great people I have met through the years.”
He fished and hunted with readers and friends every year at Watts Bar Lake, at Lake Okeechobee and Lake Erie, in addition to fishing in just about every lake in Ohio. He and Donna, his wife of 54 years, often vacationed with daughter Kelly in Michigan on the Lake Huron shores.
Naturally, plenty of fishing took place on those trips, too.