Dad made time for family despite focus on dental career

Southwest resident Robert Morrison, 90, has always been a family man.

Growing up as the 13th of 16 children, Morrison wasted no time starting a family when he met his wife.

“I met my wife while instructing in (Lemoore, Calif.),” Morrison said. “Three months later, we got married, and nine months later, we had a child.”

Although Morrison worked hard to provide for his family members, he said he focused on making time for them.

“I loved being a dentist,” he said. “I worked for 43 years, but I always made sure my family knew I loved them more.”

Born in Michigan, Morrison joined the Air Force and became a pilot in World War II.

“I got my wings at age of 19 and flew medium bombers in the war,” Morrison said. “I was lucky. I was supposed to be on the invasion to Japan flying a plane at night that had an 80 percent casualty rate. Then (Paul Tibbets Jr.) dropped the A-bomb and actually saved my life.”

After the war, Morrison attended the University of Michigan. He said his brother-in-law, who was a dentist, inspired him to study dentistry.

“I flew a single-engine fighter jet from Merced, Calif., to Michigan, and I stopped at my brother-in-law’s house for a night,” Morrison said. “I always admired him, so over a bottle of Ballantine’s scotch, I decided to be a dentist. He helped put me into dental school, and he was there when I graduated third in the class.”

In 1952, Morrison moved his family to Las Vegas to start his practice.

“I built the first dental office in this town as such,” Morrison said. “Other guys were practicing in motels or old houses, but I was the first to open an actual office.”

Morrison’s office, which was off Maryland Parkway and Charleston Boulevard, had a fireplace in the waiting room and a powder room for women.

His patients included performers Charo, Sid Caesar, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante and Xavier Cugat.

“I used to also have (Israel) “Icepick Willie” Alderman and Russian Louie Strauss,” Morrison said. “You never knew they were Mafia until you read in the paper they were indicted or missing.”

When Morrison wasn’t working, he spent time with his wife and three children: Robert “Dougal,” Ann and Shannon.

“I was real fortunate to have very good children,” Morrison said. “I taught them that there are two things in life that people can’t take away from you, and that is education and travel. So we traveled a lot together.”

Morrison’s daughter Ann Brown recalled a trip she took with her family to Fiji around 1973.

“I asked, ‘Dad, what’s in Fiji?,’ and he said, ‘Well, last I read they were cannibals,’ ” Brown said. “He has a really good sense of humor.”

Brown said her childhood was full of family outings, picnics and barbecues. Although Morrison was a stickler for rules, Brown described him as a “very kind, caring, loving father.”

“We had to be home for dinner and curfew, he insisted we have manners, and I couldn’t ride with boys on motorcycles,” she said, “but he’s the most wonderful dad in the whole world. I cannot say enough good about him.”

One of the most important lessons Morrison stressed to his children was to help others.

“He emphasized to always take care of those who can’t take care of themselves,” Brown said. “It was most likely the reason I became a nurse. It wasn’t just a degree to me. It was a calling, and I probably have my parents to thank for that.”

Morrison retired from dentistry in 1993. Throughout his career, he served with the Better Business Bureau, the Nevada Democratic Party, the Nevada State Board of Dental Examiners and the Clark County Coroner’s Office.

“He turned 90 in February, and close to 100 people showed up for his party,” Brown said. “Old patients, friends and dentists asked if they could come, and I said, ‘Of course.’ It was a grand affair.”

In his free time, Morrison likes to travel with his friends Dick and Glenna Burley. The group plans a trip once a year.

“They got me to travel with them 10 years ago, and now we’ve been to China, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Yugoslavia,” Morrison said. “I think our next trip will be to Pahrump.”

Contact Southwest View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.

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