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R. I. P. Mr. Okra

A NOLA icon.

By Ann Maloney | The Times-Picayune

Arthur J. "Mr. Okra" Robinson, the so-called last of the New Orleans street vendors, died Thursday (Feb. 15). He was 75.

Mr. Robinson's death was confirmed late Thursday by his stepson, Teddy Stansberry. His family said he died of natural causes at his house.

Mr. Robinson was a beloved figure in New Orleans, where he was known for driving his brightly painted Ford F-150 loaded with fruits and vegetables through Uptown, Bywater, Bayou St. John and French Quarter streets six days a week.

He would beckon folks from their houses with cries listing which fresh produce he had that day.

The second-generation produce man has been the subject of a short documentary, a children's book and numerous articles in local and national publications. There was even a "Mr. Okra In Your Pocket,"which allows one to hear six chants and sayings, such as "I have blueberries. I have peaches. I have plums. I have the mango."

In 2017, the New Orleans vegetable vendor was named one of "Southern Living" magazine's list of Southerners of the Year.

"Mr. Okra has been bringing fresh produce to the city since he was 15 years old, originally going out with his father, who traveled by horse and buggy," according to "Southern Living." "Now 75, Mr. Okra has experienced health issues over the past year, but his loyal customers rallied to pay his bills and repair his truck. A GoFundMe page raised over $12,000 in two months to keep this New Orleans personality rolling."

In 2010, Mr. Robinson's truck had to be towed to the Fair Grounds, so he could sell his fruits and vegetables to those attending the second weekend of New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. By the middle of May, supporters who had seen him at Jazz Fest were raising money to buy him a new truck. And, by that May 21, he had one.

Mr. Robinson, who was known as "Li'l Okra" when he worked with his dad, "Okra Man," who also sold produce, had a personality that drew writers and filmmakers to him.

Also in 2010, he was the subject of the 12-minute film, "Mr. Okra,"which shot by director T.G. Herrington over four days in the winter of 2008.

""For me, his sound is sort of a fixture, his voice and his shtick," Herrington said at the time. "It's like a sensory trigger for me. It brings up a lot of good feelings, a lot of good memories. It's very nostalgic for me, and I always thought, 'It would be great to get him on film. There's got to be a story there.'"

In 2016, the children's book, "Mr. Okra Sells Fresh Fruit and Vegetables" (2016, Pelican Publishing, $16.99), written by Lashon Daley and illustrated by Emile Henriquez, was published.

"The picture book is completely charming, drawing parallels between his truck and New Orleans life: 'His blueberries are the color of the big blue doors at the Louisiana Children's Museum,' and the items he sells are 'as different as the animals at Audubon Zoo,'" former Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker wrote about the children's book in 2016.

Mr Okra has peaches mangoes and a new childrens book

I collect junk and work as a lowly lab technician at the bench!!!!!


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