Long-time Orcas Island resident and Los Angeles native Robert Henigson passed away at 88 years of age on Jan. 28 surrounded by his wife Phyllis and two sons, Ted and Jeff, from injuries sustained in a serious fall at his residence a few days prior. He was at peace with his passing.
Robert was born at the tail end of 1925 and grew up in Hollywood, Calif. He attended military school and during WWII served on a mine sweeper and worked to develop the predecessor to GPS. After the war, he earned two degrees from Caltech, which he applied to his work for Technicolor, perfecting the rendition of the color red in the medium that his movie-producing father would eventually make his name on. He returned to school a third time for a third degree, this from Harvard Law, and began the major work of his professional career as an attorney in Los Angeles. Upon his retirement, he relocated to the San Juan Islands.
Robert was a passionate outdoorsman who backpacked from the Sierra Nevadas to the Rockies with his young wife. Between long hours at the office, he found time to surf and ski religiously, the latter all of the way into his early 70s. He also ran – and ran, and ran – recording his best times in his late 60s when a blood cancer that would eventually become one of his greatest foes initially provided him with a legal oxygen boost that carried him to many victories over his juniors.
Robert discovered yoga in his mid-70s and built a small studio in Deer Harbor where free community classes were held. He later adopted Gyrotonic, training three times a week, interspersed with self-guided sessions on an exercise bicycle that he would roll his walker beside. His athletic appetites held no rival except perhaps for his reading of books (notably, history), which he did until he could no longer see. After that, he redoubled his efforts through audio books from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
Robert’s philanthropic endeavors were the major focus of his later years. His tireless support for the community, environment, and education are well-chronicled and include affordable housing, the arts, the protection of public access to undeveloped land, and everything from early education to college scholarships to endowed professorships. He was deeply inspired by Abraham Lincoln, most particularly by his humility, integrity, and lifelong commitment to learning.
A potluck memorial celebration will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 12 – Lincoln’s Birthday – at the Orcas Center Madrona Room from 4 to 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend.