Former Cocoa Beach Mayor Robert Lawton Passed Away After Long, Courageous Battle with Parkinson’s Disease

By  //  January 25, 2019

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voted Brevard County's Best Mayor 1987 to 1989

Former Cocoa Beach Mayor Robert E. Lawton, loving husband and father of three, passed away December 13, 2018, at his home in Cocoa Beach after a long, courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewey Bodies.

Had Distinguished 20-year Military Career, Funeral Service and Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA BEACH, FLORIDA – Robert E. Lawton, loving husband and father of three, passed away December 13, 2018, at his home in Cocoa Beach after a long, courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewey Bodies.

Bob was born to the late Thomas and Ethel (Groom) Lawton on January 18, 1933, in Loudonville, NY.

He graduated from The Milne School in Albany in 1950 and received his Bachelors Degree with a double major in Philosophy and Psychology from Clark University in 1954, a Masters in Education from the University of New Hampshire in 1962, and a Masters of Business Administration from George Washington University in 1967.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ann Crocker Lawton and his children, Tamera Circello (Gimi) of Tampa, Neil Lawton (Beth) of Merritt Island and Laura Wade (Bren) of Merritt Island, his three grandsons; Anthony Vona, Jake Wade and Josh Wade. He is also survived by his brother, Thomas Winslow Lawton of Ocala.

Upon graduation from college, Bob entered the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program and was awarded a commission and wings in 1956. He flew air to air inflight refueling missions while stationed in New Mexico, New Hampshire, California and Arkansas as well as many overseas locations.

He was a distinguished graduate of the Squadron Officers’ school and the Air Command and Staff College. He served in Vietnam, flying 269 combat missions in the B-57 Canberra Fighter-Dive-Bomber over North and South Vietnam, all within a 300 day period of time. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action by the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Gen. John P. McConnell, on Nov. 4, 1968.

He also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Combat Crew Medal and numerous other decorations. In December of 1968, he flew out of Vietnam with Chuck Yeager to the Philippines to collect his wife and children and return to the states.

He then flew the Apollo Tracking Aircraft EC-135 from PAFB while also serving as Deputy Director of Information, Chief of Base-Community Relations and Chief of the Social Actions Office where he taught race relations classes and conducted individual and group counseling sessions in drug and alcohol abuse for PAFB personnel.

After a distinguished 20-year military career, Bob became a civilian employee of Brevard Community College for 27 years. During that period of time, he first held the position of Director of the BCC Patrick Center, then Director of Educational Research and Planning, Dean of Administrative Services and then Associate Vice President for Human Resources.

Bob was elected Mayor of the City of Cocoa Beach from 1984 to 1993. He entered the race for Mayor because he didn’t want the Olympic size pool at the Complex closed. In 1987 he became the first mayor to be re-elected without opposition in the city’s 63-year history.

He was voted Brevard County’s Best Mayor in 1987, 1988 and 1989 in Florida Today’s Newspaper’s annual poll. During his tenure, he was instrumental in bringing to fruition the development of the Cocoa Beach Country Club Complex and the start of the International Baccalaureate Program at CBHS.

He had many other areas of civic involvement, interests and hobbies:

• Past Chairman of Brevard County Council of Mayors
• Past President of the Cocoa Village Playhouse Board of Directors
• Past President and long-standing member of Cocoa Beach Rotary Club
• Past Spokesperson and long-standing member of the Civilian/Military Council and Member of the year in 1980 (Pen#8 is now retired)
• Founder and Past President of Space Coast Chapter Florida Shores and Beach Preservation Association
• Past Chair & Vice Chair of Florida League of Cities Task Force
• Past Chairman of Brevard County Erosion Control Advisory Committee
• Charter Member Board of Directors Junior Achievement
• Charter Member Board of Directors Crosswinds Runaway Center
• Past VP Board of Directors of Wuesthoff Hospital Ambulatory Care Center
• Past President of Tiger Bay Club
• Co-founder and Past President of the Space Coast Runners Club (He sketched the logo design on a napkin one evening at the Mousetrap)
• Twice completed the Boston Marathon (1979 and 1980)
• Participant of UF Master Gardner Volunteer Program for many years

Bob was a fun loving optimist with an unmatched sense of humor. His life’s joys were spending time with his family, long runs, water skiing, flying, bridge, numismatics, woodworking, Tuesday Men’s Lunches and Wednesday Rotary meetings.

Funeral Service and Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.

His family welcomed friends to Celebrate Bob’s Life at an informal gathering on Saturday, January 5 at the Cocoa Beach Country Club.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the University of Florida Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease, in his name, would be appreciated.

Friends and family are invited to visit his memorial page at www.davisseawinds.com

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