Last week, I speculated about the lonely death of Dave Robertson, a homeless man who died in a tent in the woods beneath the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge in Lewiston. 

It’s evident now that I speculated too much. 

Mr. Robertson didn’t have much of anything when he died, it’s true. His life had been whittled down to the clothes on his back and a few meager possessions — some of which were stolen when his body was first discovered. 

But in the end, Dave Robertson possessed the most important thing of them all: the love of his family. 

“I love my father with all that I am,” said his daughter, Alicia. “He may not have had the best life toward the end but he positively influenced a lot of love and laughter in everyone’s life. All that he has been through, he still had one of the biggest hearts I have ever known.” 

Mr. Robertson has three children, as it turns out, and grandchildren who loved him dearly. They have fond memories of better times, before a series of events led Robertson to the hardscrabble streets of downtown Lewiston. 


“I have many memories of him,” his 16-year-old daughter Madison told me. “Whenever we would ride in his car, he would blast the music and we would sing all the songs that came on. He dedicated the song ‘Just the Way You Are’ by Bruno Mars for me. I remember his scratchy beard and him showing me his moonwalk. He was always there for me and my mom, until 2021.” 

Over recent years, Robertson had been estranged from his family. He had issues with drugs that drove him to the streets. Sometimes he slept in the woods. Sometimes he slept at one of the Lewiston shelters, if one was available. 

Robertson lived a tough life in recent years, as all homeless do. But while he was living that life, as his family was thinking about him, Robertson, likewise, was thinking about them. 

I can’t decide if this fact is unutterably sad or the most beautiful thing in the world. 

“He was a good man,” said Megan Parks, a homeless advocate who had known Robertson for years, “and even though he was estranged from his family, he talked about his kids and grandkids with so much love and pride. And I wish they knew that.” 

His family does know that now. Maybe they’ve known it all along. Because while Robertson’s life had reached such turmoil that he could no longer be with his family, all the memories are intact. The fundamental way they think about the man as a father, grandfather or brother has not been corrupted, and the insinuation that Dave Robertson will soon be forgotten could not be more amiss. 


“I spent most of my life with him,” Alicia said. “I was, after all, daddy’s little girl. We did everything together. Clear up to the last three years. He was my everything until he wasn’t the same man anymore. But, I will speak of him for the rest of my life. He has two other children who will also talk about him. And grandchildren who know and love him. And his own siblings who love him. He won’t be forgotten for as long as I can help it.” 

Over the past week, I heard from a lot of people who knew Dave Robertson and who were extremely fond of him. One of them has set up a Facebook page where people can share memories of the man. Another is planning a public celebration of his life for mid-June. 

A few of the people who contacted me speculated on what might had driven Robertson to the streets. Each idea was different from the last, because ultimately there was no single event that proved his undoing. 

It was a slow buildup — a death by a thousand cuts.

When Alicia was a little girl, her father was badly hurt in an accident and was prescribed pain medication for back issues that would haunt him his whole life. 

We know how this story goes. Robertson became addicted to the medication and never could shake it. 


He lost his father under sad circumstances and that, too, haunted him — Robertson did not want to die a sad and lonely life like his father did. 

Just over five years ago, his mother died and then soon after that, his girlfriend passed, and all of these things piled up high enough to fall on Dave Robertson and send him tumbling onto the desolate path to the streets. 

“Most of his issues,” Alicia said, “come from heartaches and body pain for as long as I can remember.” 

In the end, though he made friends in the homeless community and was much loved in that world, there was to be no real solace for Dave Robertson. The hole he dug got too deep and maybe he reached a point where he could not stop digging. He crossed his personal Rubicon and came to that point where there could be no retreat.

Only Dave Robertson knows what his final hours were like, and he can no longer tell us. 

But we can know for sure that he was loved when he took his last breath and we can hope that somehow he knew this, and that it made his passage a more peaceful one. 

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