UPDATE: 'Off-Cleaner' maker donates land for Missouri state park

Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 11:40 a.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis-area entrepreneur has left a big present for Missouri: 843 acres of land that will become the newest state park.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that 84-year-old Don Robinson died Monday at the Pacific Care Center after suffering from congestive heart failure.

Robinson bought a formula for a spot remover, found a way to make it at little cost, and called it "Off-Cleaner." He marketed the product on late night television.

Robinson, a lifelong bachelor, started buying up remote land in Jefferson County in the 1960s. He donated the land to the state upon his death. It will become Don Robinson State Park.

Missouri State Parks Director Bill Bryan said the gift is among the largest in the 95-year history of the state parks. The land is rich in plant life, some of it unique to the area, and surrounded by sandstone canyons.

"It's really a neat place," Bryan said.

Robinson grew up in the St. Louis suburb of University City, the son of a lawyer. After graduating from high school he began looking for property to buy cheaply, divide and sell for a profit. But his biggest venture was purchasing the formula for what would become Off-Cleaner.

Robinson hired high school students to mix what he called "the product" and deliver it to hardware stores and supermarkets in St. Louis and surrounding states. He marketed it in tubes as a miracle cleaner and advertised on late night TV when ad rates were cheapest.

He was known for being a likable, funny guy and incredibly frugal. Friends said he never bought health insurance and paid for open-heart surgery in the 1980s out-of-pocket.

At grocery stores, he asked for items the store was about to throw out. He once went through the rubble of a burned-out grocery picking up cans of food without labels.

"He didn't know what he was going to be eating until he opened the can," friend Nancy Rice recalled.

Robinson put his Off-Cleaner profits into real estate that he later sold to be developed into malls and subdivisions.

In the late 1960s he became enchanted with land near Cedar Hill in Jefferson County. He started buying parcels until he had exactly 843 acres — the size of Central Park in New York.

He moved into a one-bedroom stone house on the property. The cap rock of the hill was the floor of the house.

An agreement was drawn up with the state Department of Natural Resources about five years ago, providing for the land to be given in trust to the state after Robinson's death.

The land will become Missouri's 87th state park. Bryan said it is too early to say when it will open to the public.

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