Dr. Robert Augustus Chandler Jr., 93, of Old Saybrook and Ridgefield passed away peacefully on Thursday, Feb. 1, surrounded by his loving family.
Bob or “Doc” as he was lovingly referred to, was born on Dec. 22, 1930 in New London. He was the son of the late Dr. Robert A. Chandler Sr. and Marjorie Alberta Hills Chandler. Raised in New London, he graduated from the Bulkeley High School for boys in 1948, and attended Middlebury College and Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener).
He married in 1954 and then followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Graduating in 1956 from Temple University School of Dentistry, Bob went on to serve as a captain in the Army Dental Corps in Ulm, Germany. There he honed his dental skills, and often traversed Europe in his free time with his young family in tow.
In 1960, he settled down in Darien to raise his family, opened his private dental practice, and served his community for 41 years until his retirement in 2001. He was active in the Darien Rotary for over 50 years, serving as its president and a Paul Harris Fellow.
Bob was awarded the Pierre Fouchard medal for distinguished service to his community and his contributions to the field of dentistry. He was known for his exceptionally genial disposition, earning him an early high school nickname of “Happy.”
His affability put his thousands of patients at ease. He quietly gave hundreds of hours of free dental care to the underserved and uninsured in Connecticut, especially the children of Stamford through the ABC program. To trick-or-treaters who crossed his threshold every Halloween he bestowed a toothbrush and toothpaste much to their parents’ delight and the kids’ dismay.
Combining his artistic talent with his wry sense of humor, as a prank on his dental college roommate and life-long friend, Bob once carved and created a gold crown bridge that resembled a reclining Venus de Milo! They laughed so hard and long that the installation of the real crowns had to be put off for another day.
Bob was instilled with a true love of nature and the outdoors stemming from his early years at Camp Becket for Boys and becoming Eagle Scout. Later as an adult, after checking his detailed two-paged camping list three times (written in his trademark calligraphic hand), our family of six (plus our two huge Newfoundland dogs) all piled into the Bonneville wagon and made the trek to the mountains of Vermont.
There, through the years we’d learn the finer arts of camping, bear encounters, beaver habits, writing on birch bark, fire building, and mushroom identification. Ever the gentleman-craftsman, he hand-built a beaver-hewn log toilet for those less outdoorsy offspring who preferred some semblance of civilization & comfort amid the mosquitos and wild boar.
On the shores of Long Island Sound, Bob was a master oyster shucker, fisherman, sailor, and skater. He was also an artist, goldsmith, wild mushroom hunter, genealogist, gardener, limerick writer, Westminster Champion Newfoundland showman, master clocksmith and golfer.
He relished in the occasional hijinks too. Once he covered a newlywed’s car with butterfly decals as a welcome home honeymoon present. On another occasion he hung 8-foot cardboard colored easter eggs for the kids from trees along the public thoroughfare and got caught in his full Easter Bunny costume by the New Canaan police (time served!).
One Reverend recalled that as a new young minister he had a habit of twisting his hair while instructing Bible Study. Bob would lovingly throw a tennis ball at him if it got to be too much — to get him to break the habit. It didn’t work.
For his kids, no obstacle would stop him from giving or loving. He schlepped a pony named “Sweetheart” (she wasn’t!) in a VW bus through a snowstorm to arrive in time for Christmas. Bob once rose pre-dawn to snow-blow a maze on our pond to provide a week’s worth of amusement (always — he would be required to jump five times in the middle of the pond before the day’s skating began).
He dispatched the elusive massive snapping turtle that lived in said pond who dared to threatened our geese, removed a nest of baby snakes from our path in the basement, helped us “build” a tree house that still stands, taught us to trap garden slugs using beer and to hunt for nightcrawlers with flashlights.
He faithfully attended myriad ballet recitals, gymnastic meets, concerts, plays, soccer and hockey games, and father-son and father-daughter golf matches (won some, lost more). He trained some of us to assist him chairside but cautioned never to use the words “oops.” He taught us the lost wax method of gold casting by sculpting us monogrammed gold charms that will outlive us all.
Later on, in retirement, he and his beloved Betty enjoyed traveling to Cape Cod every year and antiquing for Sandwich glass. Together they explored and hunted for the best glass pieces, and the tastiest oysters.
He enjoyed donning a tie to suit every holiday, going to the opera and meeting Pavarotti. For over 50 years he could be found almost daily making a pit stop at the historic Sugar Bowl diner across from his office, taking in the sunsets at Pear Tree Point with Betty at his side, or in their garden tending to their award-winning best-tasting tomatoes.
His grandchildren — and especially his great-grandchild Alexander, who like most children who encountered Dad — believed him to be the REAL Santa Claus.
Bob achieved naturally what we all aspire to: he made everyone around him happier. His big heart warmed the lives of everyone lucky enough to come within his orbit. For everyone he had a kind word and a twinkle in his eye. That twinkle never dimmed and it was present to the last.
In addition to his partner Betty Hancock of Killingworth, Robert will be dearly missed by his four children: Pamela J. Chandler of Essex; Heidi L. Chandler and her partner, David Leonard, of Mahopac, New York; Robert “Toby” A. Chandler III and his wife, Heather, of Bayport, New York; and Adrienne Rogatnick and her husband, Howard, of New York City; four grandchildren: Joshua Webber Posey, Lindsey Alexander Salazar, Solomon Oliver Chandler Rogatnick and Abraham Jack Chandler Leonard; his great-grandchild, Alexander Victor Salazar; Gabby and Rex Bartolini; lots of nieces and nephews; and Betty’s children: daughter, Paige (Jim) Ryan; son, Cass Hancock; grandson, Ian McHugh; and granddaughter, Savannah Hancock.
He is predeceased by his sister, Marjorie Hazard of Wallingford, and his former wife of 32 years, Sandra L. Chandler of Greenwich.
Dr. Chandler’s family would like to thank the Gladeview Health Care Center in Old Saybrook, especially his aide, Monique, with her unending sunny disposition and Laura, his social worker, who appreciated the brilliance of his mind and the size of his heart.
A graveside Service with military honors will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at Granby Cemetery, 6 N. Granby Road, Granby, CT, 06035.
In lieu of flowers, we invite you to make donations in his memory to: Camp Becket for Boys, 748 Hamilton Rd., Becket, MA 01223.
— an obituary from Hayes-Huling Carmon Funeral Home, where online condolences may be left