• "I became a patient of Dr. Florence's at the young age of 18..."
    - Janice Hagedorn
  • "I broke my arm roller skating with the Brownies when I was..."
    - Stephanie Marvin DDS
  • "We send our sincere sympathy to Robert's family, having..."
    - Joy and Duv Wiseman

Robert W. Florence Robert William Florence died peacefully February 20, 2014. He was born on July 12, 1917 in Cushing, Oklahoma to John and Elsie (Stegall) Florence. After completing Cushing High School, Robert graduated with B.S. and M.D. degrees from the University of Oklahoma. He married his childhood sweetheart, Helen Mae Hoyt, in 1940. The next year he completed his internship at Providence Hospital, Seattle. In 1942 Robert entered active duty in the Army as a medical officer with the 50th General Hospital from Seattle. His military orthopaedic training included an intensive course at the Mayo Clinic. He landed with the 50th at Utah Beach on D-Day+35, and performed surgeries under harrowing and demanding conditions. In 1946 Robert opened his general medical practice in Tacoma. He became a board certified orthopaedist in 1954 after his specialty training at the University of Washington Medical School. While there, he developed an interest in treating the scoliosis he saw in polio patients and teenagers. Robert studied with Dr. Paul Harrington in Texas, who had developed a scoliosis implant. Robert used this new procedure for his patients to help straighten their spines. He kept current on scoliosis treatments as a member of the Scoliosis Research Society. He also taught Tacoma Public School nurses how to screen students for scoliosis. His passion for scoliosis treatment improved the lives of many in the Tacoma-Pierce County area. Robert was among the first to perform arthroscopic surgery in Tacoma. He introduced the autologous blood transfusion program to the Tacoma-Pierce County Blood Bank. He contributed the chapter about Pierce County for Saddlebags to Scanners, The First 100 Years of Medicine in Washington State. His story and war photographs were included in the book and calendar, Legacy of Heroes, the accounts of orthopaedists during World War II. Robert was president of the Pierce County Medical Society, and a member of the American College of Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Western Orthopaedic Association and North Pacific Orthopaedic Society. He belonged to Immanuel Presbyterian Church, the Tacoma Elks Lodge, the Tacoma Country and Golf Club, and was a Life Member of the American Legion. Robert loved '40s and '50s music and playing his home organ. Other interests included tennis, swimming, and car trips with Helen and their three daughters. When he retired in 1985, Robert and Helen enjoyed golfing and traveling, especially cruises. His carefully tended rose garden was greatly admired, especially by the deer. Helen died August 9, 2007, after nearly 67 years of a very happy marriage. Robert moved to Narrows Glen Retirement Community. He greatly valued the residents and staff, and enjoyed playing music for them on the organ he donated for their parlor. In addition to Helen, Robert was predeceased by his younger brother, John, and younger sister, Margaret Ellen Mushrush (husband William). He is survived by daughters Sue Balsiger (sons Fred and Joe), Judith Florence (husband Bruce Mann and daughter Shoshana), and Jayne Holgerson. He also is survived by three great-grandsons and one great-granddaughter. Our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Bradley Schmitz, Dr. Needham Ward, and the caring staff of Allenmore Hospital and Narrows Glen. Robert requested there be no memorial service. Remembrances may be made to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital or the . His was a good life well lived.

Published in News Tribune (Tacoma) on Mar. 2, 2014
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