Mourners brave the elements for Charlie Robertson's funeral

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

Close to 100 people huddled with their umbrellas around Charlie Robertson’s grave in Mount Rose Cemetery on Tuesday, Aug. 29, to say a final goodbye to the former York City mayor.

Robertson died Thursday, Aug. 24, after a battle with cancer. He was 83.

As the ceremony got underway, Robertson’s casket was brought to his burial site, draped in an American flag to honor his service in the U.S. Army.

More:Former York City Mayor Charlie Robertson dies at 83; was acquitted of murder in race riots

After a short prayer, about a dozen mourners filed past, each placing a white rose on the casket of the man who led the White Rose City for eight years between 1994 and 2002.

An unabashed champion of York City, known for singing its praises to any and all who would listen, Robertson essentially retired from public life 15 years ago after his acquittal on murder charges.

In October 2002, an all-white jury found Robertson not guilty of second-degree murder for his role in the fatal shooting of Lillie Belle Allen during the city’s 1969 race riots. 

More:In Charlottesville, echoes of York City, circa 2002

Six others pleaded guilty to  playing a role in the death of the 27-year-old black mother of two, and some testified that they received ammunition from Robertson, a York City Police officer at the time. Two others were found guilty.

While Robertson’s widespread legacy will be forever linked with the 1969 race riots, all of those who spoke at his graveside funeral service focused on the brighter parts of his past.

Many pointed to the hundreds of city children he helped as a mentor and youth sports coach, while York City Council President Michael Helfrich offered his gratitude for the work Robertson did for the city as mayor.

“(Robertson) taught me a lesson to make sure that we recognize those around us, so I want to make sure that someone recognized all of his contributions to the city of York,” Helfrich said.

Chhayrong Chhum, Charlie Robertson's adopted son, talks about his dad during a graveside service for the former York City Mayor, Tuesday, August 29, 2017. Robertson was laid to rest in Mount Rose Cemetery with military honors. John A. Pavoncello photo

Family legacy: Chhayrong Chhum, Robertson’s adopted son, said his dad “helped many kids, hundreds of kids,” but he took special pride in Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. 

Chhum said Arians recently sent Robertson a copy of his newest book, which Chhum read to him every time he visited Robertson at ManorCare Health Services. The stories of Arians’ childhood brought several last smiles to Robertson’s face, Chhum said.

Chhum, who came to York City as an orphaned refugee from Cambodia, said he first noticed Robertson as the officer helping him and other students cross the street near the Edgar Fahs Smith school. 

“I saw him, and I wanted to be just like him — a police officer. He looked big and tough, but he didn’t look intimidating because he was so friendly, “ Chhum said, standing in front of his father’s casket. “When I got up to him, he put his hand out and shook my hand when I touched his hand. It’s just a moment that I cannot describe.”

Chhum said Robertson was a “very wonderful, kind and caring” man who loved his family above all.

“He was always there for me. He always supported me to make sure I stayed out of trouble and stayed in school,” Chhum said. 

After the ceremony ended, Robertson was buried next to his mother and father, his grave on a hill overlooking the city he once led.