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Cape Coral’s first doctor dies

By Staff | Nov 19, 2009

Cape Coral quietly lost one of its most influential citizens last weekend.
Dr. Robert Tate, the city’s first full-time physician, died Sunday at Hospice House at the age of 76, according to his wife, Abbey.
Tate began practicing medicine in the Cape in 1962, under a contract with Gulf American Corporation.
According to historian Paul Sanborn, Tate was looking for a place to start his private practice following completion of his residency in St. Petersburg.
Sanborn said Tate had an office, but also conducted house calls. As a one-man show, he was a jack of all medicinal trades.
“He did everything … deliveries, house calls,” Sanborn said. “My wife reminded me our middle daughter was Bob’s first patient when he set up business.”
As the city’s population grew, so did Tate’s business, forcing him to bring on more doctors.
The Cape Coral Medical Clinic — now the Cape Coral Art Studio on Coronado Parkway — quickly became inadequate, and Tate realized that a larger facility was needed.
Tate became the driving force behind planning, designing and constructing the Cape’s first hospital.
“As the population grew, the needs grew,” Sanborn said. “It was his suggestion that we need a hospital in the Cape. He was instrumental in getting it started.”
Leaving behind a wife, three daughters and four grandchildren, Tate’s legacy extends beyond the medical field.
Abbey Tate said they were married for 29 years, but knew each other much longer.
Juggling family and work, her husband was a busy individual.
“He never stopped practicing,” she said. “He was one busy guy. He had three children, a medical practice and a hospital to build. It took its toll in some regards, but he kept on going.”
By opening his practice in the Cape nearly a half-century ago, Tate brought modern medicine to what was then a still barren and developing landscape.
Abbey said he truly loved the Cape and loved watching it grow, and he enjoyed playing his part in the city’s history.
“He truly loved this community. He was proud and honored to be a part of it,” she said. “He was on call 24/7, he delivered babies, did surgery, he was it. He had his little black bag and went from house to house.”
A memorial is planned at 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at Cape Coral Hospital.
Instead of flowers, the family is asking donations be made to Hospice House in Tate’s memory.