When Olivia Robinson was upset, only one thing could really calm her down — shopping for a toothbrush at H-E-B.
Well known in the New Braunfels community, Olivia Robinson, daughter of Terry and David Robinson, passed away on Christmas Day of 2018 at the age of 24. Just short of a year later her memorial has been installed in the coffee corner at the H-E-B on SH-46 and Loop 337 to live forever.
“Olivia was, to describe her, she was an amazing young woman, but mentally like a 1-year-old and had no verbal communication abilities,” said her mother Terry, director of United Way of Comal County. “But the one thing she loved most in the world was toothbrushes — and specifically from HEB.”
In mid-November, H-E-B held a memorial ceremony for Olivia during which a plaque in remembrance of her was placed in the grocery store’s coffee corner.
Friends, family and loved ones of Olivia packed into the small
area to eat cake, talk and reminisce about their favorite Olivia moments, said David, Olivia’s dad.
“We were all gathered around, and we’re all standing around having cake and talking and (an employee) was standing there and I can see her sort of reacting,” David said. “I say, ‘Hi, did you know Olivia?’ and she’s tearing up and says, ‘I was just thinking I hadn’t seen her in some time, I didn’t know she’s passed away — when they described her I thought, oh no certainly not.’”
She was known by every employee, and brightened his or her day often, David said. Almost everyone who worked at H-E-B regularly said hello to Olivia, and some people even saw her grow from infant to adult, he added.
“Gale is one employee who used to work at the Albertson’s in town and then at the H-E-B when Albertson’s closed,” David said. “After getting a toothbrush, Olivia would fly by the cashier, and we’d always hear ‘Hi Olivia,’ and it was Gale — she was always so sweet.”
As she aged and her abilities expanded, so did the interest she took in toothbrushes, Terry recalls.
“She liked the dollar ones for a while and she’d get stuck on a color — it’d be green for a while, the red for a while — then she became enamored with the ones with characters on them,” David said. “She’d go for this one little cat one — but we’d always have to visit the toothbrush section first in any store.”
After a brief illness, Olivia unfortunately passed quickly last winter, Terry said.
“We actually approached them about leaving her ashes, but they weren’t able to accommodate that so they decided to put her plaque up,” Terry said. “The administrative assistant that was there was Monica Rivera, and she scheduled the day.”
A lot of Olivia’s fellow NBISD special-needs classmates showed up for the ceremony on Nov. 5, for which H-E-B donated a cake and flowers, Terry said.
“From time to time we’ll go have coffee with her there,” Terry said.
Rivera said it was essential to her and the H-E-B staff to remember Olivia, and with the H-E-B mission being to give back and be present in the community, they felt the ceremony important.
“Our perishable leader, Marcus Padilla, and I organized a small ceremony in remembrance of Olivia,” Rivera said. “We met the entire family in the conference room of our store early morning … Once all of the family had arrived, Marcus commenced the ceremony by welcoming the family and speaking about Olivia’s time in our store.”
Olivia’s family chimed in and emphasized just how much Olivia enjoyed coming into the store,” Rivera said. “We even had a few partners present who were a part of Olivia’s shopping trips chime in to share their stories.”
Everyone then walked over to the coffee area where employees provided the plaque to the family, Rivera said.
“Once Terry and David hung up the plaque, we closed the ceremony by offering a flower arrangement to Terry and a cake to share with the family,” Rivera added.
The photo hung in the shop shows Olivia holding toothbrushes and was taken on her final birthday, Terry said.
“It’s absolutely wonderful, it shows so much insight into what they’re about — serving the community and loved ones,” Terry said.
Every few days or so, David said he goes to H-E-B where he has swapped buying a toothbrush out for buying a flower, which he places just below the plaque.
“It’s a new tradition for Terry and I to visit Olivia and have coffee with our daughter at H-E-B,” David said. “And I visit and put a flower there — and I hope Olivia’s friends can feel free to put a flower or note or something up there as well, there is room.”
Both Terry and David expressed their gratitude to the employees of H-E-B and to the store itself.
“It’s been really rough, she was a really special person, and this has been a way to cope and move forward,” David said.
For more information about the H-E-B at the 1655 W. State Highway 46 location, visit https://bit.ly/2LgL27a or call 830-626-0937.