Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Robert Henry Sherwood

Robert Sherwood passed away May 12 following a full and adventurous life. Born in Manhattan on Feb. 11, 1920, Bob was the only child of Henry Sherwood and Helen Murdoch, successful Broadway actors.

His parents divorced when he was 9, and each remarried sometime later: Henry to Carmen Brandt, a contract singer with the Metropolitan Opera; Helen to Jay Fassett, a stage and screen actor. 

When Bob was 10 he dabbled in the family business of acting and made a movie short for Warner Brothers but didn’t feel comfortable. He took his acting salary and bought a microscope, the first of many he would own. After high school he was offered a biology scholarship to Bard College, but he soon discovered that his real love was inventing and transferred to Columbia University to study mechanical engineering.

In 1939, Jay and Helen purchased 120 acres in Ketchum, Idaho, next to the new Sun Valley ski resort and built River’s Edge Ranch.

Bob joined them and learned to ride, shoot and hunt, but kept his mind trained on inventing. When World War II erupted, he joined the Army Air Force and spent three years with the 8th Air Force Division as a top turret gunner and armament specialist.

He participated in 30 combat missions, including some of the deepest penetrations made on targets in enemy-occupied Europe. He was stationed in England in 1944 and with a heavy bomber squadron known as the 389th Bombardment Group, and made his first operational flight on D-Day in the B-24 Liberator.

Bob was deeply affected by the war, and in 2004 he wrote and published “Certified Brave,” a novel based on his experiences and the men he fought alongside. 

Right after the war Bob met Fay Hines, from Memphis, Tenn., a journalist who had written the social column for the Memphis News before working her way up from copywriter to executive editor at House & Garden magazine. 

The two married in 1946 and Bob became stepfather to Fay’s 6-year-old son, Tyler Thompson.

Bob ran his own consulting and inventing business in Manhattan from 1946 to 1966. He worked on 120 new products and received 10 U.S. patents and made significant contributions to Doubleday, Bayuk Cigar, Ideal Toy & Novelty, Deluxe Reading Corporation, and Horseman Doll, Inc.

In the 1960s Bob and Fay moved to Old Saybrook, Conn. Fay retired from publishing and became an environmental activist in the area. Bob continued inventing and consulting. But in 1976 the Sherwoods moved permanently to the family ranch in Idaho following the death of his stepfather Jay Fasset.  

Fay’s son, Tyler Thompson, died of lymphoma at the age of just 39, leaving behind two stepchildren. Bob and Fay were devastated but retained a life-long relationship with Tyler’s former wife, Dr. Ida Thompson, and her two children, Alice and Matthew, whom they treasured and treated as their own grandchildren. 

Bob’s beloved wife of 43 years passed away in 1989. A year later his mother passed away at 92 years of age. He had nursed them both till the end.

Bob moved to Boise, Idaho, where his life again flourished. For as long as he was able, he worked late into the night in his lab and always had ideas and projects on the burner and was a constant inspiration to friends and family. He lived in his own home until just weeks before his death at 92 years of age, the result of complications due to diabetes and congestive heart failure. 

Bob is survived by his former daughter-in-law and long-time friend, Dr. Ida Thompson of Edinburgh, Scotland; his beloved granddaughter, Alice Thompson of Brooklyn, NY; his grandson, Matthew Thompson, of Bokeelia, Fla.; and his nephews, Alexander “Sandy” Hines of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and John “Jay” Hines of Boynton Beach, Fla. 

He also leaves behind countless dear friends who loved and appreciated his energy, wit and generosity. He was a man of many passions who lived life on his own terms and moved from the past into the present with dignity.

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