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Pillar of Gainesville theater scene makes dying wish for his brother
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Robin Hale, left, was a longtime actor in the Gainesville Theatre Alliance but recently died of a rare skin cancer. His last wish was for people to take care of his brother Joel, right, who has cerebral palsy. Photo courtesy Scott Simpson.

The only thing Robin Hale ever asked of his friends was to take care of his brother. 

Hale was a fixture of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance for decades, taking his last bow in 2005 after acting on stage for more than 30 years. He died Oct. 1 of skin cancer at age 68. 

Hale had recovered from skin cancer once, said his longtime friend and often co-star Scott Simpson. But he was diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, about a year ago, and friends and family worked to make him comfortable before he died. 

Hale, though was not worried about himself, friends said, rather in his final days he was concerned only with his brother Joel. He had been the primary caregiver for Joel, who has cerebral palsy, for the last eight years, ever since their mother died. 

The house Joel Hale lives in is not fit for someone with cerebral palsy, Simpson said, and Robin Hale had been Joel’s hydraulic lift during that time, lifting his younger brother three or four times a day for baths or other chores. 

Simpson and another friend, Tina Roberts, set up a GoFundMe page for Joel on Sept. 27 in effort to raise $50,000 for home improvements that would make Joel’s care easier for friends and family who were taking care of both brothers by committee. A third Hale brother, Jimmy, and his wife, will take care of Joel, but ramps, a lift and other renovations are necessary to do so. 

Roberts met Robin when she was a theater student 20 years ago. His gift was being able to find the comedy in even the most devastating scenes, she said. 

“I’ve never met a smarter person, especially someone who’s so humble,” Roberts said. 

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Robin Hale, left, was a longtime actor in the Gainesville Theatre Alliance but recently died of a rare skin cancer. His last wish was for people to take care of his brother Joel, who has cerebral palsy. Friends Scott Simpson and Tina Roberts, right, set up a GoFundMe page for Joel seeking $50,000 to pay for home improvements that would make care easier for Joel and his family and friends. Photo courtesy Scott Simpson.

Simpson also described Robin as brilliant, along with his brother, Joel.

Joel has a great mind still and a great memory for United States history, Simpson said, especially the Civil War.

“Joel is as good-natured and brilliant as Robin is,” he said. “I love sitting here talking to him. There’s something I think about being confined to the chair. I think about Stephen Hawking a lot when I’m talking to Joel, just because his mind is extraordinary.”

He was one of the pillars of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, Roberts said, and helped the Gainesville arts scene as a whole, even during the past years when most of his time was spent with Joel. Gainesville Theatre Alliance is a collaboration between University of North Georgia’s and Brenau University’s theater departments. 

Simpson said Robin had a huge impact on the people he worked with, and they both met in the mid 1980s when University of North Georgia was still called Gainesville Junior College. Simpson worked as a professional actor for many years, and he said his career began because Robin went out of his way to support him. During a production of “You Can’t Take It with You,” directed by Frank Capra Jr., which proved one of the heights of his career, Simpson kept thinking about Robin. 

“The whole direction of my professional life that has brought me to this moment is a consequence of the fact that Robin Hale was the one who argued I should be cast in “J.B.” (Simpson and Robin’s first production together),” Simpson said. “(Director Ed) Cabell was going to cast one of the students in the part.”

It wasn’t until years later that Simpson found out Robin had vouched for him, urging Cabell to take a chance on a then inexperienced Simpson. Thus began a decades-long friendship and a fruitful time on stage in the 1980s.

“He was one of the most fun people to work with that you could imagine,” Simpson said. “(He was) very serious about the work itself but also very understanding that it’s a pretty intense experience. … I’ve never cracked up more often in my life than when I was working with Robin.”

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Robin Hale in the Gainesville Theatre Alliance production of "Look Homeward Angel Now." Photo courtesy Gainesville Theatre Alliance.
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