Written by her Daughter Gloria
June started life in 1926 in poverty during the Great Depression, and she often had to move in with various relatives. She did well in school, was editor of her high school paper, and met her husband-to-be, Melvin Robbins, when she was 15 and he was 17. She convinced a drafting teacher to accept her as the first and only girl in class, so that she could go to work in the Philadelphia Navy Yard where her mother worked on ship barriers, parachutes, and in the War Room.
Many boys in June’s high school volunteered for the military, which is what Melvin did, instead of waiting to be drafted. Everyone knew someone who had been killed or wounded. Melvin came back, and they had a full and rewarding life together.
“I was thrilled to work at the Navy Yard at 17 to help the war effort, and to help my mother who was then single. I helped to draft paravanes, which were strung out along the sides of the ship, to prevent mines from destroying the ship . One day after working a long time on designing them, I got to see one. I still have some of my drafting equipment.”
June worked mostly with men, who treated her respectfully, though they sometimes “clowned around,” and teased her. She recalls the officers playing the “war game” where they moved model ships about on a large board to test their tactical skills, eating lunch with the sailors and officers, and the stress on getting back to work and doing it well, no matter what was going on in “the yard.”
June and her mother listened to a radio station that played, “Bluebird of Happiness” every hour, and they knew it was time to leave for work when it played that song in the mornings. Along with working, June volunteered with the Red Cross and became a hostess at the USO.
She and Mel married in 1947. She worked as a hairdresser, helped Mel start his business as a store owner, became a mother of seven children, and joined B’nai Brith Women, to fulfill the Jewish ideal of “Tikun Olam,” to “Repair the World.” June lived in Israel with her family for a year, and eventually volunteered there on an archeological dig of Roman artifacts in Beit Shean. Her sons taught her to ride a motorcycle which was her transportation for several years.
She was a “humorologist” at Children’s Hospital for many years. Eventually, she became a professional clown after extended training, and she now goes veterans’ hospitals, women’s shelters, and other places, “to lighten their lives.” She won 1stPlace for her “Hungry Hobo” skit at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Clown Association (MACA) convention in Pennsylvania. She says the key to improvising is to listen.
Months after being named in the press as “The Cutest Couple in Marple-Newtown,” having been married over 65 years, June lost her beloved Melvin in August, 2013. Their seven children, 18 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren are devoted and many are nearby.
As a social worker with clients over the age of 60, with an Area Agency on Aging, her daughter, Gloria Joffe proudly says to those who say, “I’m too old to do anything new!” that she knows an 88-year-old, professional clown, who found the many things she has tried and has accomplished in her life. If asked what she is proudest of in her life, June will say her family, but she is also proud of her clowning, getting people to laugh , and, of course, what she and other women accomplished in the War Effort. She always has a sense of the importance of pulling together……just as Rosie the Riveter was known for.