Longtime optometrist, legislator dies at 89

Dr. Bob Robinson wasn’t one to sit on his hands and watch life pass him by.

He was always involved, doing something he thought would make the place he called home better.

“He felt he should give back to his community,” said Betty Robinson, his wife of more than 67 years. “He saw it as his duty, to be active and to support things.”

Robinson, one of the first optometrists in Las Vegas and a longtime state legislator, died July 31. He was just shy of his 90th birthday.

Robinson’s wife said he was the third optometrist in town, and an announcement in the Review-Journal in 1950 noted he was the “first in Las Vegas trained to fit contact lenses,” an emerging technology then.

“Bob was always very aggressive when it came to being active socially,” said local optometrist Karl Larsen.

He said when he started his practice in 1967, he was the 11th optometrist in town.

Robinson was always eager to help Larsen and the two became good friends over the years. For Robinson, helping people “was just in his nature.”

Robert E. Robinson Jr. was born on an Idaho farm in 1923 and moved to Las Vegas in 1939. Two years later, he graduated from the original Las Vegas High School, having served as president of the honor society.

He went on to study at the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles College of Optometry, since renamed the Southern California College of Optometry.

He also served four and a half years in the U.S. Army, including 18 months in the Aleutian Island Theatre. He attained the rank of staff sergeant.

He met his future wife while a soldier, Betty Robinson said.

She was 14, he was 18, when they met in Burbank, Calif., in 1941. Her mother made it a point to take two servicemen to dinner every Sunday.

Robinson was one of those men. He and Betty fell for each other, and married in 1945.

Betty acknowledged that it might seem unusual today to get married as a teenager, but she did it with her parents’ permission.

“I think it worked,” she said.

As his career flourished, Bob Robinson stayed involved in the community. He was involved with the Las Vegas Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Elks Club, the Jaycees, the Boy Scouts, the Boys Club of Clark County, the Masonic Order and the Las Vegas Zelzah Shrine Temple, the Rotary Club of Las Vegas and the Nevada State Board of Examiners for Optometry.

In 1972, he was elected to the state Assembly, where he served until 1982, when he was elected to the state Senate. A year before retiring in 1986, Robinson switched from the Democratic party to the Republican party, helping shift control of the Senate.

In 1987, Robinson became a director of Nevada State Bank, where he served for 20 years.

Betty Robinson said the family is planning a private memorial service. She said they will hold a public service in the weeks to come, but the date has not been determined yet.

In addition to his wife, Robinson is survived by a son, Mark, and his wife Sandra, of Pioche; grandson Craig and his wife, Tera, and two great-grandsons, Cole and Wyatt, of Las Vegas.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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