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Worsom to many was a Chicago celebrity with one name

Homegoing services for Worsom Robinson

Aside from entertainers, athletes and politicians, few people are known universally by a single name, but Worsom Robinson was. Being known by that single name, Worsom is a small part of what made him unique among Chicagoans.

Those who knew Worsom well will attest that the big, freckled guy who decades ago shunned sport shirts and suits in favor of T-shirts was giving, funny and a treasure trove of interesting tales about growing up and living on the West Side.

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Worsom Robinson

Early on, Worsom developed a passion for photography and soon realized his pictures helped him connect with people from all walks of life. During his years at the Chicago Crusader, Chicago Defender, and Sun-Times, it wasn’t unusual for reporters to ask Worsom not only for story ideas, (normally it was the other way around) but introductions to notable people.

“What, are you surprised he knows me?” Worsom once quizzed a reporter when the former Mayor Richard M. Daley stepped away from a crowd and enthusiastically greeted Worsom who was covering the event. It was the same kind of enthusiastic welcome he received when he was covering a community event with no famous people around. Young people seemed to always remember “that’s the man who took my picture at school.”

Some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods were places where Worsom was not only comfortable but was also well known and respected.

Although he shot some of Chicago’s most important cultural, political and sports events, Worsom’s passion was shooting high school proms and weddings. For every one picture of a dignitary or famous person in his portfolio, Worsom had 10 prom, graduation or wedding photos he had taken.

Watching him carry out his craft was much more than seeing a talented “shooter,” it was a masterclass in human relations. Even with grumpy or reluctant subjects, Worsom’s candor, dry wit and endless stories made the most reluctant subjects laugh or smile and pose exactly as Worsom needed them to.

He had what seemed to make people laugh at themselves and not be over-serious about some matters. Conversely, when a newspaper editor was attempting to extol his staff to improve their work, it was Worsom who took over the meeting telling the staff what their work meant to the community and how they were diminishing the legacy of the paper. Not surprisingly, immediately after that the work improved.

Worsom’s quick grin turned into a full-blown smile whenever someone identified him as a celebrity. “I’m just Worsom,” was his standard reply. At events where attendees wore name tags that often showed they had impressive titles or post-graduate letters behind their names, his was always the same -WORSOM. No last name, just WORSOM.

His close friends knew it was the name he took on in honor of his late mother, whom he said, perpetually identified him as “worrisome.” He was quick to share memories about her.

Besides the mononymous name, Worsom’s attire added to his uniqueness. His “work uniform” consisted of T-shirts and jeans. He refused to wear coats and opted for long-sleeve heavy sweatshirts under the T-shirt. Whether it was a black-tie event or a Chicago Bears game, that was what he was wearing.

Even at his father’s funeral, instead of the customary suit and tie, Worsom wore a T-shirt with his father’s picture silk-screened on the front. “Y’all thought I was gonna wear a suit,” he laughingly taunted a row of colleagues.

The serious side of Worsom came through repeatedly when he befriended a colleague who was having health challenges. It was Worsom who made certain his associate got to all his doctors’ appointments, sometimes picked up his prescriptions for him, and assisted financially. It wasn’t something he broadcast. He knew it was the right thing to do and just did it.

Darrell (Worsom) Robinson battled heart problems for more than a decade, before succumbing to the condition on November 27.

He is survived by his special friend Nita Thomas, and a legion of brothers and sisters.

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