Robbie Lee Roe could put a smile on anyone’s face.
She was a prankster, who loved to make goofy faces, but her jokey exterior belied a generous and loving spirit.
“She would walk into a room, and everyone would start smiling, start laughing,” said Robbie’s older sister, Bonnie Roe. “It was always a good time to be around her. She made everything better. She made life better.”
Robbie’s death in a car crash in California Valley on Saturday marked the latest tragedy for her family, which dealt with their older sister Christie’s death of a heart attack two years ago and Bonnie’s cancer diagnosis last year.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words, it doesn’t feel real,” Bonnie said in a phone interview with The Tribune. “This much tragedy shouldn’t happen to one person in any of their life.”
‘The funniest person’
Robbie and Bonnie, two years apart, grew up in California Valley, but Bonnie moved to Atascadero a few years ago. Robbie was the youngest of four siblings. In addition to Bonnie and Christie, she had an older brother.
Robbie and Bonnie saw each other often, thanks to Robbie’s job at Atascadero Muffler. She worked there as both a receptionist and a car saleswoman, having gotten her sales license about a year and a half ago, Bonnie said.
“She was pretty good at it,” Bonnie said. After Robbie sold a car, she’d call Bonnie and say, “Let’s go to lunch, I got commission!”
The sisters usually went to sushi or would get Chinese food — Robbie’s favorite, Bonnie said.
She always answered the phone with a “Hey, darlin’!” but her other catchphrases she used regularly were “Yabba dabba doo!” and “Hakuna matata,” Bonnie said.
Robbie had a boyfriend, Kyle Pflum, whom she’d met through work, and she had become a mother figure to his young son, Bonnie said.
Robbie and their dad were very close and loved gardening together and watching old movies, Bonnie said. Robbie graduated from Del Rio High School in Atascadero in 2013.
She was a prankster, who loved to get a reaction out of people.
“She would do these puppy hands, every time she would do something where she was trying to get you,” Bonnie remembered, referring to how Robbie would put her hands up like a dog’s paws and give an innocent look. “You’d be like, ‘What the heck are you thinking?’ and you’d turn around and she’d give you the puppy hands like, ‘Who, me?’”
“She was the funniest person,” Bonnie said. “She was very quirky, very loyal and she was definitely loving and helped everyone.”
Robbie left her home in California Valley on Saturday night to go to the grocery store in Atascadero, Bonnie said. When she didn’t come home, her boyfriend Kyle texted Bonnie that she hadn’t come home yet and he was getting worried.
Bonnie and Kyle sprung into action. He drove around California Valley looking for Robbie, while Bonnie called everyone she could think of — including hospitals and jails — to see if she could find out where Robbie was.
Bonnie was getting ready to head out to California Valley when Kyle called her. He was with Bonnie and Robbie’s childhood friend, Sean, at the scene of the crash.
“He let me know there had been an accident and it wasn’t looking good,” Bonnie said. “At the time, they didn’t know she was dead.”
‘Piling up and piling up’
Robbie’s death marked another tragedy in a family struck by them: Two years before, their sister Christie died of a heart attack. Last year, Bonnie was diagnosed with central nervous system lymphoma, a rare type of brain cancer.
Between trying to take care of the remainder of Christie’s affairs, paying for Bonnie’s chemotherapy and hospital bills, and now the funeral, the family is under additional financial stress.
“We’re still trying to pay for my sister’s funeral and wrapping up my older sister’s stuff and pay for my chemotherapy; I’ve been to five different hospitals in the last year and most of last year was spent in the hospital,” Bonnie said. “All the bills keep piling up and piling up.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for Robbie’s memorial service. As of Thursday afternoon, the account had raised $2,010 of an $8,000 goal.
“I don’t wish this on anyone. It’s very, very hard,” Bonnie said. “I’m at a state of being really numb.”
‘The two best angels’
At the time Bonnie was diagnosed with cancer, she was 16 weeks pregnant — a pregnancy she and her fiance had hoped for for two years. After her diagnosis, she was told she couldn’t keep the pregnancy because she had to start chemotherapy immediately.
Robbie supported her sister, calling her every day to check in on her and visiting her in the hospital whenever she could. Robbie also took over Bonnie’s car payments during that time.
In January, when Bonnie found out she was in remission, she and Robbie had a discussion.
“We were talking about, if I can’t have children, can she carry my children for me,” Bonnie said. “And she said, yeah, she would do that.”
For now, Bonnie said her family is trying to be strong for each other and get through everything one day at a time.
“I can’t believe how much we’ve got through and how we’re still staying strong and trying to be there for each other and stay a close family,” Bonnie said. “It’s just hard on everyone. We’re still in disbelief. It’s hard to put into words.”
“She was everything I could want in a sister,” Bonnie continued, voice cracking. “They (Christie and Robbie) are probably the two best angels I could ever ask for.”