There are no services scheduled at this time for Robert F. Rison, 96, Olathe, KS, but possibly at a future date. Robert moved into the great beyond on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at Villa St. Francis in Olathe, KS. He contracted COVID-19 in December and while he survived the initial illness, the effects were lasting and he was not able to fully recover. He will be missed by all those that know and love him.
He was born on June 17, 1924 in Denver, CO, the son of Charles Abraham Lewis and Mary Frances Ivey. Robert took the name Rison from his stepfather, Carey O. Rison in 1936 but was never able to reunite with Charles. He grew up around Rocky Ford, CO and Fort Collins, CO and told exciting tales of catching rattlesnakes in the mountains as a kid. He was raised in the Presbyterian church and could quote scripture with the best of them although he had his own views about religion later in life and enjoyed a good theological discussion. Robert graduated Denver East High School in 1941 and moved to Kansas City, MO with his mother, aunt and grandmother. He enlisted with the U.S. Coast Guard at the age of 17 and spent his war years with the U.S.C.G. patrolling for German U-boats mostly in the North Atlantic Ocean near Greenland. The time spent in the North Atlantic led to his extreme lifelong distaste for cold weather. He lost some hearing during the war which would be a struggle for him throughout his life. When Robert returned from the war in 1945, he had to immediately go to work to help support his family. It was always his regret that he was not able to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and go to college. He was a brilliant mind and mused he would have been an English professor. But he found a very successful career as a medical equipment salesman, spending time on the road during the fifties and sixties. During this time, he was married to his first wife, Carmen.
Robert met Sweet Donna Lee Reavis whilst working together at a dry goods company on Main Street and they were married February 3, 1972 in Kansas City, MO. They loved one another deeply and were great friends, sharing an easy banter and sense of humor. Robert began a new career in nursing home administration as their two daughters completed the family. He lived in Stover, MO, Manhattan, KS and Horton, KS during this time until moving to Lawrence, KS in 1985. Robert worked at the Douglas County Senior Center for ten years until retiring.
Donna preceded Robert in death on December 16, 1999 and of course, he was heartbroken as she was taken too soon. He then moved to retirement communities in Eudora, KS and then Baldwin, KS where he read his books, smoked his pipe and cigars and watched lots of TV. He doted on his grandkids and rode around with his beloved little dog, Moppet. He moved to Kansas City in 2012 where he lived with his daughter before suffering a stroke in 2016. Robert still maintained his charisma, sense of humor and positive attitude, winning over everyone on his healthcare team as he came to terms with his loss of function. He never gave up and pushed hard to maintain his independence. He moved to Villa St Francis Catholic Care Center in 2017 where he became a beloved resident, playing bingo and making questionable jokes.
Robert was a real Renaissance man, having many hobbies and always looking to learn something new. He taught himself to play the mandolin, build bicycles, carved beautiful wood print blocks, knew everything about firearms, could recite poetry and prose, loved to sing, could mend his clothes, cook a meal, play the harmonica and drums and was even learning Swahili from the nursing home staff. But perhaps his greatest love was books. He especially loved the classics and was a bibliophile until the end, leaving a beautifully curated collection for his family to treasure. He was a true patriot and often said how grateful he was to be born in America. He understood and deeply appreciated what that meant. His spirit was unmatched, good-natured with a wry sense of humor and a booming laugh. Robert was happy to meet anyone and was genuinely interested to know all about a person and would always remember their name. He was loved by all that met him. However, in true Gemini fashion, he could also have some choice words before returning to his usual affable self. Robert loved dark chocolate, black licorice, a steak and potato, anchovy pizza, lemon meringue pie, cigars and whisky. He loved dogs, history, fishing, the color orange, sitting in the sun and watching the wind blow through the tops of the trees in the evening. He was kind and generous, open-minded and caring. A loving father, grandfather and devoted husband, he was supportive and wanted to see those around him succeed and find happiness. Not without regrets or mistakes, his was a life well lived and at the end, one to be very proud of. The body he left served him well and will be cremated and returned to the Rocky Mountains.
He is survived by his daughters; Kathryn Anne (James) Taylor, Keri Lee Rison, four grandchildren; Ivey LoPresti, Iris Isaacs, Sage Isaacs, and Lucy Taylor. Also, dear friend Vincent (Danielle) LoPresti, his much loved cousins in Colorado and many deeply cherished friends, both old and new.
The family would like to thank the staff at Villa St. Francis Catholic Care Center for providing his care over the last three years and especially this last year which has been so trying for everyone there. We recognize what you have been through and your kindness toward him will never be forgotten.
Memorial contributions may be made in Robert’s name to The Lawrence Humane Society and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.