Dr Clayton Robinson, nicknamed “Robbie,” passed away in his home on 13 November at the age of 92. He was born in Chapeau, Quebec, and raised on a farm in Meath, Ontario, the youngest of three sons who were all destined to become doctors.
Educated in the Ottawa Valley towns of Pembroke and Renfrew, he graduated early from Queen’s Medical School in 1943 and volunteered for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserves. He served on the HMCS Middlesex in the Atlantic convoy escort as a surgeon lieutenant until the end of the Second World War, when he joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and traveled to Ceylon for 3 months. He was very proud of his time in the Navy and loved telling stories about life on the high seas.
After the war, Clayton demonstrated anatomy at the University of Toronto under Dr J.C.B. Grant and wrote Grant’s biography in 1993 for the Canadian Medical Association. His medical training in thoracic surgery continued in Vancouver and England, and he met his wife, Kathleen, at Southend-on-Sea Hospital. They were married on St. Patrick’s Day 1952, and honeymooned in Ireland.
Clayton and Kathleen lived in Saskatoon from 1958 to 1966, where he was a member of the Department of Surgery and worked at University Hospital. He was president of both the Canadian Thoracic Association and Saskatoon Medical Association in 1965.
The family moved to Vancouver in 1966 and Clayton worked primarily at VGH, Shaughnessy, and St. Vincent’s Hospitals, and as a professor of surgery at UBC. His work was his passion and he was much loved by his patients and hospital staff. His crowning glory came in 1982 when he was invited to give a Hunterian Lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, in London. He was extremely honored by the invitation.
In 1984 Clayton turned 65, and along with 14 other physicians lost his privileges at Vancouver General Hospital. They challenged this newly created hospital bylaw on the grounds that it infringed upon the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis of age discrimination. This precedent-setting case was eventually heard in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990 and became the basis for many of the mandatory retirement policies of today.
Clayton loved the sea and the mountains. He built two sailing dinghies and a family cabin at Whistler, where family and friends shared many happy times. Although Kathleen was the social planner, Clayton loved making Irish coffees to “splice the main brace.” He was an avid reader, frustrated gardener, and regular attendee at the Vancouver Symphony, Vancouver Opera, and Vancouver Men’s Welsh Choir.
He was predeceased by his wife, Kathleen, in 2009, and his brothers, Clarence in 1993, and Cecil in 2010. He will be greatly missed by his children, Moya (Chris), Elspeth, Richard (Jacquie), and grandchildren, Lucy, Anna, Tessa, Andrew, and James.
—Richard Robinson, MD