Robert Robertson

Published 7:56 pm Saturday, August 3, 2019

Robert Robertson, 90, passed away on July 30, 2019, at his home in Smithfield with his family by his side.  Mr. Robertson was the son of the late John McDonald Robertson and Jesse McCombe Robertson. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Nona Kay Ott Robertson; sons, Robert S. Robertson (Magdalena), Mark John Robertson (Mai), and Thomas Andrew Robertson (Marcelle O’Connell); daughters, Jessica Natalie Robertson, Nona Catherine Frazier (Steve) and Heather Ann Ida Patton; grandchildren, John, Christopher, Whitney, Robbie, Kyle, Madison, Tommy, Pascale, Ally, Natalie, Ben, Stella, Ava, Annabel, Matthew and Margot; great-grandchildren, Zane and Alessa; and his brothers, John McDonald Robertson and Ronald McDonald Robertson (Loretta).     

Bob lived an incredibly full life and leaves a legacy marked by dedicated military and government service to his country; a storied career in international business; a passion for and commitment to his art; and, most important to him, an absolute devotion to his wife, six children, 16 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.  At the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent nearly two years aboard the U.S.S. Topeka, participating in the occupation of China.  After 10 months in the Marine Corps Reserves, he reenlisted in the active Marines and spent three years on the front lines in Korea as a member of Chesty Puller’s 1st Marine Regiment, rising to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant.  

Following his military career, Bob spent two years attending Georgetown University and working for the FBI, where he was a fingerprint expert.  He then returned to Ohio where he was a popular radio personality on WGAR and where he met his future wife, Nonnie.  They went west and settled in Reno, Nev., to start their life together. Bob became a DJ at the KDOT radio station in Reno and for a time also had a half hour TV show.  He went on to become executive director of the Nevada Homebuilders Association and then ran the right-to-work campaign for Nevada.  He was campaign manager for Paul Laxalt’s successful gubernatorial campaign and then served as Laxalt’s chief of staff in Carson City.  Bob and Nonnie shared a passion for the arts, acting in many productions at the Reno Little Theater during their time in Nevada.  

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In 1969, Bob was asked to join the Nixon White House as executive director of the National Council on Indian Opportunity in the Office of the Vice President where he oversaw Native American programs in the federal government.    He then served as an assistant secretary of the Department of Interior, managing Senate congressional affairs. After leaving government service, he represented the pet and timber industries in Washington, D.C.  He spent the last 18 years of his D.C.-based career in the private sector as senior vice president for International Affairs at Occidental Petroleum, traveling the world, interacting with world leaders and solving complex political and policy challenges for the company.  While at Occidental, Bob was asked by President Ronald Reagan to serve as chairman of the President’s Commission on Indian Reservation Economies, a task that he proved to be uniquely qualified for.  

In 1991, Bob and Nonnie created their little piece of heaven on the shores of the James River in Smithfield.  Bob began his second career as an artist, spending hours every day creating art in various mediums, most notably watercolors and reverse painting on glass.  He was dedicated to fostering the arts in the region, for a time leading the Isle of Wight Arts League, helping to build it into a vibrant presence in Smithfield.

A funeral service with military honors was held on Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Albert G. Horton Veterans Cemetery, Suffolk.  Online condolences may be registered at