Lee Robinson knew the diagnosis was bad.
For six years he stood by his wife, Irene, who fought colon cancer before she died in 2010.
Early Wednesday, he succumbed to the same disease with his two daughters by his side.
"I think his decline was rapid, in the end," said his oldest, Chris Simmons.
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She and her sister, Jackie Castellow, witnessed how their father lived for his city, county and state.
"He was just a servant leader. He had a servant's heart," Simmons said. "He was all about Macon, Georgia, but the truth is, it's really Macon-Bibb and surrounding counties."
He had constituents and clients all over Middle Georgia.
A little more than a year ago, the former Macon mayor could hardly believe he had developed stage 4 colon cancer.
He stayed fit by running and swimming, so he was blindsided by the doctor's report.
Armed with intense faith in God and propelled by a love for his community, Robinson valiantly defied the illness that finally took his life.
"He was charging full speed ahead. He was just a trouper," Cherry Blossom Festival CEO Jake Ferro said. "I'm brokenhearted."
Over 12 months of intense treatment, Robinson alternated between good weeks and bad weeks.
By fall, the bad outweighed the good, but he refused to sit out the festival's Tunes & Balloons event in September.
"If I can make it, then I'll do it for you," Robinson told Ferro, as he tentatively accepted the invitation to emcee on stage at Middle Georgia State University.
"He got there at 3 o'clock and it was over at 9," Ferro said. "I saw that he was really wearing out and I offered to take over, but he said 'no, no, no. You've got other things to do.'"
Robinson, the circuit public defender based in Macon, was pronounced dead just before 4:20 a.m. at the Medical Center, Navicent Health, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.
From an early age, Robinson loved politics.
He worked for Garland Byrd's congressional campaign in 1964 and a lieutenant governor's race two years later.
The 1968 graduate of Georgia Tech took his industrial management degree straight into the Army, where he earned three Bronze Stars and an Army commendation medal for his service in Vietnam. After his discharge in 1972, he went into the Reserves and rose to the rank of colonel during his 31 years of service.
He was elected into the Georgia Senate in 1974 as part of the "post-Watergate" crowd, but after four terms he returned to Macon to attend law school at Mercer University.
After toiling a few years as an attorney, Robinson set his sights on the mayor's office and served from 1987 until 1991.
Robinson appointed his Mercer schoolmate and law partner Bobby Faulkner as Municipal Court judge.
"I've known Lee for so long," said Faulkner, who remembered shopping at Robinson's, the family's hardware store at the corner of Vineville Avenue and Forest Hill Road. "Lee's hand was always in politics."
Robinson served only one term at City Hall, where he sometimes butted heads with council members even when he gave workers off on Christmas Eve in 1990.
He once invited reporters to a "grill the mayor" cookout at his home, but at the end of his tenure, felt he was a victim of a "press feeding frenzy" that overshadowed his accomplishments.
"From the analytical standpoint, you can understand the piranha have to eat," he told The Telegraph in 1991. "But when they're eating you, it's a different story."
As pundits predicted, he lost his re-election bid to Tommy Olmstead for Robinson's support of Police Chief Jim Brooks. A growing chorus was calling for Brooks' firing after a DUI and speeding incident in Houston County.
"He really was a champion for the police department, not just me," Brooks said Wednesday. "He felt a strong law enforcement agency was critical to stem the tide of drugs."
During violent days in Macon, Robinson led an anti-drug crusade as a national campaign was getting off the ground. He considered it his greatest feat as mayor.
"Now you realize, he was a visionary before his time," Brooks said. "He lived it. He was out in the street among the men and women of the department."
In recent years, Robinson was a champion for inmates coming back into society, veterans who were in trouble with the law and convicts deserving another chance.
"Lee devoted his life to protecting the rights of the least of these," Macon Circuit District Attorney David Cooke said. "He will be sorely missed. He was a great guy."
Robinson believed too many people were behind bars in Georgia, and he was working toward alternative rehabilitation programs. He helped found the Second Chance Clinic to give people another crack at putting their lives on track.
He was an inspiration to attorney Ashley Deadwyler-Hueman, who works with the clinic.
"He used his position throughout his career to always find a way to serve people who weren't being served," she said. "He was a true servant. He was such a wonderful mentor. ... He's left a great legacy."
Every person in need he encountered, he would try to help, she said.
"I know without a shadow of a doubt, that man is a saint in heaven," she said.
'I HAVE A PEACE ABOUT THIS'
Dr. Paul Seale, a close friend who was involved in his medical care, said Robinson's impact went way beyond Macon.
"He had a real heart for the underprivileged," said Seale, who met Robinson 35 years ago when the Seales began attending Ingleside Baptist Church, where Robinson was a deacon, a Sunday School teacher and a member of the board of overseers.
Robinson was developing pastoral training courses in Peru. The avid pilot, who was a certified flight instructor, wanted to train other pilots for mission work.
"That's just a few things he did at an age when most people retire," Seale said.
The "pink baron" also used his aviation skills to organize Cherry Blossom air shows.
Everywhere he flew, Robinson was an ambassador for Macon's signature festival.
In recent months, he was developing a new fly-in to lure aviators across the country to the beauty of Macon in springtime.
Within the past two weeks, Robinson was named Macon-Bibb Aviator of the Year at a ceremony announcing a new educational partnership with Middle Georgia State University at the Macon Downtown Airport.
That day, Macon's current mayor praised Robinson for his zeal for the untapped potential at the county's airports.
"Nobody has been more visionary and more persistent in that regard than former Mayor Lee Robinson," Robert Reichert said at the announcement.
A couple of years ago, Robinson took Reichert to the downtown airport, telling him the airport "could be so great" with the proper investment and upgrades.
MGSU President Christopher Blake said the university community is saddened by Robinson's passing.
"He was a visionary who believed in Macon, believed in human potential and believed in the ingenuity of the people of Middle Georgia -- not only in aviation, but in many fields of endeavor," Blake said in a statement. "We are honored he could be with us at the Macon Downtown Airport signing last month and will proudly continue the work he started."
Airport manager Doug Faour said his good friend embodied the qualities celebrated in the community's first Aviator of the Year.
"He was a wonderful man, a wonderful person," Faour said Wednesday. "He loved his community. He was a great leader."
Robinson, a former paratrooper who commanded a platoon in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, still loved to fly, but he enlisted a co-pilot recently due to his health problems.
Faour said Robinson was committed to working on improving the airport even in his final days.
"The last thing he said to me was, 'I love you,'" Faour said. "It hurts to see Lee gone. It really hasn't sunk in." In an interview with The Telegraph in March, Robinson said he didn't see the cancer diagnosis coming. Until then, he had never been sick more than five days in a row. Through his recent struggles, his faith gave him the endurance to press on.
"I truly believe God is sovereign," he said. "I prayed for the peace that passeth all understanding, and he gave that to me almost instantly. So I have a peace about this."
Over the past 12 years, Robinson's international mission trips to Peru, Bolivia and Russia were increasingly important to him. "It has brought me closer to God," he said. "Now God is using this to bring me even closer. It's a spiritual place that's hard to describe.''
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Ingleside Baptist Church Worship Center, with a reception from 10-10:45 a.m. in the gathering area of the church.
Information from The Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 and follow her on Twitter@liz_lines.