homepage logo

Robert F. Sylvester, Jr., M.D.

Sep 29, 2009

Former Sanibel resident Robert Sylvester, Jr., passed away on Sept. 26 in Newark, Ohio. He was 90.

Born on Nov. 19, 1918, he was raised in Decatur, Ill., surviving tuberculosis in his teens. Sylvester attended Millikin University where he met his wife of 65 years, Phyllis, and received his medical training at Washington University in St. Louis.

After med school, Robert was part of the Sidney Farber research team at Harvard that invented chemotherapy while seeking a cure for childhood leukemia. Ultimately, Robert chose teaching and private practice over academic medicine. He was full professor in clinical medicine at Ohio State for many years and practiced pediatrics in Columbus, Newark and Granville, Ohio.

A community health activist, Robert was a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and worked throughout his life to establish and maintain community mental health resources in Licking County. Towards the end of his career, he was the staff pediatrician for youth in recovery at Shepherd Hill in Newark.

After retirement, Robert and Phyllis lived for many years on Sanibel Island, where Robert enjoyed many discussion and study groups, boating and walking the beach with his dog. In addition to his life in medicine, Robert was an extraordinary musician, a gifted jazz saxophonist. He began playing professionally in high school, and later found bands to play in on the side wherever he lived throughout his life. Robert and Phyllis were long time members of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Granville, where Robert served as senior warden.

Robert is survived by his loving wife, Phyllis; their four children – John, Jane, Amy and her husband, Ken, and Philip, and his wife, Joan; three grandchildren – Nate, Rachel and Eoin; a sister-in law, Margaret; nephews and niece – Lloyd, Scott and Marla; and his four-legged best friend, Cooper. Robert will be dearly missed by his family and many friends.

A memorial service was held on Sept. 30 at St. Luke’s. Online condolences may be expressed at www.mcpeekhoekstra.com. Remembrances in Dr. Sylvester’s memory may be made to Hospice of Central Ohio or to the progressive charity of one’s choice.