Dr. Robert David Lawton

September 6, 1924 to December 8, 2023


Those unable to attend the Mass for the late Dr. Robert and Josephine Lawton, on Friday, December 15 at 11:00 a.m. at Divine Mercy Parish, may view it via this link: https://tom0349.wixsite.com/streamingservices/carnells



Leaving this life as they lived it, Robert and Josephine Lawton together passed peacefully away in their sleep within hours of each other at Kenny’s Pond Retirement Community in St John’s on 8 December 2023, aged 99 and 92.

They leave to mourn their loving children William (Neena) of Twickenham, England, Catherine of St John’s, and Allison (Doug) of Kelowna, BC; and grandchildren Nickolas, Neev, Sam, Matthew and Sean. Also leaving to mourn their late daughter Maureen’s husband Marc Thoms of St John’s, Robert’s sister Anna Lawton of St John’s, Josephine’s sisters Irene Marriott of Halifax and Elizabeth Noble-Janusas of Milton, Ontario, and an extended group of nephews and nieces and their families.

Robert and Josephine are predeceased by their beloved daughter Maureen of St John’s. Robert is also predeceased by his parents Louis J and Bride (Murphy) Lawton of Bell Island, his brothers Keith of Halifax, Louis of St John’s, Father William of St John’s, and his sister Eleanor of St John’s. Josephine is predeceased by her parents Wilbert and Lila Greencorn of Philips Harbour, NS, sister Helen McIsaac of Canso and brother Laurier of Sackville, NS.

Robert was born on Bell Island on 6 September 1924, either 10 minutes before or after his brother William (few could tell them apart throughout their lives). Bell Island was a bustling community in those days. As a boy Robert enjoyed movies, hockey, and community picnics by the lighthouse. He worked behind the soda fountain at the original Lawton’s drugstore (est. 1907) and he hid with his twin brother in the ice house to avoid practicing violin with Sister Julian. While they were still teenage altar boys in September 1942, and just about to head to Memorial College in St John’s, Robert recalled racing to the wharf on their bikes to watch the recovery of victims after two iron ore carriers were torpedoed by a U-Boat in Conception Bay.

Josephine, or Josie as she was known back in the day, was born in Guysborough County, NS, on 7 May 1931 to Lila Jamieson and Wilbert Greencorn, the fourth of five children. She grew up on the family farm where she delighted in the landscape around her. When she wasn’t skating on the frozen pond in winter she was picking blueberries in late summer for money to buy better skates. She had fond memories of her childhood and reminisced of snowy sleigh rides home from school with her grandfather Isaac and playing on the beach with her sisters. Her children also have rather romantic memories of that place, with wood stove, water pitchers in bedrooms, and the party line phone system where you were not supposed to listen to other people’s calls.

Josephine had a passion for learning. At age 15 she left home to attend high school and earned her keep by caring for young children. She was accepted at age 17 into nursing school at St Martha’s in Antigonish, but as that was too young to start she worked as a teaching assistant until commencing studies the next year. She excelled at St. Martha’s and graduated in 1950 before her 20th birthday. Josephine spent half a year in Washington for postgraduate study in pediatric nursing; the Director’s report noted that she was diligent, resourceful, able, gracious, vivacious and ‘seldom needed suggestion’. She returned to Nova Scotia in 1953 to teach pediatric nursing at Halifax Children’s Hospital. It was here that Robert had been placed, and here that Josephine allegedly tripped him up as he passed by. Whether deliberately or accidentally has been impossible to determine. In fact, whether this is even true is hard to say. What is more certain is that they married in June 1956.

Josephine stepped away from her career to raise four children but returned to school in the late 1970s to requalify and worked at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Janeway Hospital until the mid-1980s. Her children remember well how she loved the ‘preemies’ in her care.

Robert’s life was also devoted to healthcare. He got his pre-med diploma from Memorial in 1944 and graduated from Dalhousie in 1950. His early medical practice included stints in Twillingate and Millertown. In St John’s he was admitted to the surgical staff of the General Hospital, St Clare’s and the Janeway. He became President of the medical staffs at the General and the Janeway. He was Chief of the Ophthalmology Division at the Health Sciences Centre and Co-founder and Director of the CNIB Mobile Eye Care Unit, for which work he was awarded the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal in 1993. At Memorial’s School of Medicine Robert was Associate Professor of Surgery (Ophthalmology). Robert was awarded honorary life memberships of the NL Medical Association in 2003 and the Canadian Medical Association in 2013. He treated patients with great humour and a fairly persistent humming of tunes at his practice in Rawlins Cross for 40 years.

Robert’s work in the community included years with the St John’s Rotary Club. He was always an early adopter of new technology. He introduced the use of laser treatment for cataracts in Newfoundland. He was an enthusiastic ham radio operator for many years – using both morse code and voice – until he turned his attention to the internet in 1993.

Robert and Josephine enjoyed the things other people do – travel in Europe and further afield, barbecues, a drink, laughter. Every Christmas they presented their children with calendars that featured family photos from the past year. Robert loved the water and everything on it. The number of Regattas he missed in a century can be counted on one hand. His easy quick wit was matched by Jospehine’s generosity.

Robert and Josephine were devoted Christians and devoted to each other for close to seven decades. In their final years one could not hear and the other could not see but together they managed. Their daughter Maureen and her husband Marc did for them, for years, what they were less able to do for themselves. Their daughter Catherine assumed this mantle in the last couple of years when they were most frail. The staff at Kenny’s Pond were also wonderful.

Robert and Josephine will be dearly missed by their loved ones and fondly remembered by all who knew them. These were long lives well lived; that they chose to leave them together is a thing for the poets.

Both resting at Carnell’s Funeral Home, 329 Freshwater Road, with visitation on Thursday 14 December from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Funeral Mass will be held on Friday 15 December at 11.00 at St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, 340 Newfoundland Drive. The Mass will be livestreamed. Interment to follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Topsail Road.

As an expression of sympathy, and in lieu of flowers, donations in their memories may be made to The Gathering Place, a St John’s charity which works to provide food, clothing, shelter, and social support to homeless and other people in need – see https://kindnesswanted.ca.





2-4 p.m. on December 14, 2023

7-9 p.m. on December 14, 2023

Carnell’s Funeral Home
329 Freshwater Road
View on Map


11:00am, Friday December 15th

Divine Mercy Parish (F.K.A. St. Paul's), Newfoundland Dr.

Interment to follow in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.


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Condolences to his family and his loved ones

Dearest Allison, Bill, Catherine, and family. Please accept my deepest condolences and sympathy to you all. I always felt incredibly welcomed by your parents. I always was so welcome on Pine Bud Avenue. Your mom and dad always had time for me, they were always interested in what was going on in my life. I think that is a testament to the kindness and love they exhibited as people. They were always interested in people, the genuineness of their being made them both unique, and that is such a rare trait. From afar my arms are around you all. Love always, Paul

Our condolences to all the family I had the pleasure to meet your mom years ago when mom & I visited nfld. My mom would have been a first cousin to your mom .
I believe your mom was named after my grandmother Josephine

I was saddened to hear of Bob and Josie’s passing. I know they visited my parents, Howard & Eileen (Josie’s cousin) in the past here in Philips Harbour and always sent a Christmas card. I have childhood memories of visiting Josie’s parents, Aunt Lila and Uncle Wilbert, in their house on the hill. It always breaks my heart losing our older generation. I hope fond memories will sustain all their loved ones through this time of great loss.
Offering my sincere condolences,

Colleen George

Sending deepest condolences to you all. Residing in Phillips Harbour, I’m just a short distance from where Josie was brought up. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Bernadette Creamer.

Dear Member of the Lawton family: We send you our sincerest condolences as we remember lives of accomplishment and goodwill. Requiescat in Pace.

Peter and Hilary Neary
London, Ontario:

To the Lawton Family
We are so sorry to hear of Dr Bob’s and his wife
Josephine’s passing . A beautiful tribute
I studied pharmacy under Mr Lou Lawton on
Bell Island
Carmel & I send our sincere condolences to all
Dave Galway

My sincere condolences to the family on Bob’s passing. I knew him through amateur radio . His call sign was VO1BP. He was always a very friendly man to me who enjoyed his radio hobby using his well equipped station and antenna tower.

When he decided to move and dispose of his radio gear he gave me two digital clocks which he wanted passed along free to any deserving new radio amateur who needed one. His wishes were carried out.

Bob is now a Silent Key in amateur radio .

His picture in his radio shack is posted on the VO Amateurs Facebook site.

To Bill, Catherine and Allison,
What a great journey your folks shared. They were perfect parents right out of central casting from the shows we watched as kids. I have so many fond memories of hanging out on Falkland St. and then on Pine Bud Ave.. How many laughs did we share in those homes. Your folks had a bigger laugh at our hi-jinx than we did! Just the best memories from those days. So sorry I am not in Canada at the moment and will miss seeing you and attending your parents funeral. They were a class act in every way . Kindest Regards and Condolences.
Dean MacDonald

The Lawton family. Deepest condolences for the loss of both of your parents. What a beautiful love story and connection to pass so close together. I hope you find peace in knowing they are together.

Sending heartfelt condolences to all who loved him.

Heartfelt condolences to the Lawton family. I have fond memories of my years working with Bob at the Eye Clinic, HSC. He was a great teacher, a skilled ophthalmologist who cared for all his patients, especially glaucoma patients. During that time I got to know Jo as well. It was always delightful and pleasant to be in her company. They were a wonderful couple. So sorry for your loss. Sincerely, Sharon Dominic

Catherine, Allison, and Bill – My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your father and mother. It was so nice to read about their lives in the lovely obituary you posted to celebrate your parents. May they rest in peace.

Dear Lawtons
Our deepest sympathy to you all . The loss of both your parents in this way is at once tragic and also beautiful and speaks to their amazing interconnectedness. You have had to bear a lot this year and we hope that the love and support of those closest to you helps you though the roughest times .
Janice Van De Spiegle ( Dewling ) and family

Billy, Catherine, Allison and family…beautiful tribute to your parents. What a remarkable life. Sending my condolences.

Catherine, Allison, Billy and all the family,
My deepest sympathy on the loss of your wonderful parents. The story of their life together reminds us all of the depth and breadth of their long lives and their commitment to good. Their departure together is indeed poetic..
I’m glad you are all together to see them off.

Rosemary, sorry to hear of your double loss.
He treated my late sister decades ago mid 1970’s perhaps?.
Her previous Dr.. was not helpful..
Dr. Lawton helped her immensely.
I remember the grin on her face that night at the supper table as she told us about her new doctor..
Her first words?
“Mom. I like him, he listened to me!”

Sincere Condolences to the family and friends of this amazing couple. May you both forever Rest in Peace.

To the Lawtons … Bill, Catherine, Allison and all the extended family, my heart is with you all at this sad time. What incredible lives lived and a blessing that this wonderful couple passed together. Peace and good memories to you all.

Billy, Catherine and Allison,
Lives well lived, No doubt they will be missed by you all but a fitting way to leave this earth…together

To the Lawton Families:

What a beautiful obituary. May they rest in peace.
My heart is also with the late Maureen Lawton who was my dentist and friend.