Robert Dennis Nesbitt, known to all that loved him as Dennis, a modern Renaissance man, only with less the bravado and more of the qualifying wit and humility, died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on January 23rd, 2021.
A renowned inventor, chemist, engineer, research fellow, master gardener, photographer and world traveler.
A first generation Canadian, he was born in Toronto, the second son to Irish immigrants William Robert Nesbitt and Andrewena Murphy. He was adored by his mother, who often addressed him as "Dear", in the most benevolent, sentimental manner. His father, a Wonder Bread delivery man, distributed loaves all throughout the city via a horse-drawn wagon. Dennis often spoke of accompanying him on his routes and the horse named "Tony." He had only fond memories of his older brother Sydney, a lanky, cheerful character, who was his most constant and reliable companion.
It was during these early years that he grew his first "Victory Garden," an act that spurred a life-long passion for gardening, and love of horticulture and home food processing. As an adult he cultivated several acres of land, grew all his plants from seed, in his basement nursery, each in their own little vessels, row upon row, beneath a halo of lightboxes. Come spring, each seedling would be set in their allotted spaces, within the furrows, carved by a trowel, in the freshly plowed earth. He toiled in solitude, but for the family cat, so often by his side, with whom he had a silent report. His silhouette, sprayer in one hand, vodka and diet coke in the other, showering his masterpiece with his own rain, will forever be etched in our memories.
He was clever. As a young man, Dennis was a bored and disinterested student throughout most of his years until he discovered chemistry after his admission to a vocational high school, where he excelled and went on to graduate. He was fascinated with the study of elements and compounds and poured through books and developed a laboratory in his basement. More than a few times he shared the story of an unfortunate explosion that occurred while developing his own gun powder recipe, which left him "deaf and blind for three days." He would sheepishly smile and chuckle while recalling the memory.
Though he might have been a bookworm, he grew into a handsome, charismatic man who knew how to impress a lady. Fresh off the boat to Canada, a pretty young Irish lass named Margaret Young agreed to a blind double date with Dennis. In fine fashion, he arranged for a night at a swanky night club, with top shelf martinis and first row seats to the entertainment, a cabaret of scantily clad ladies.
She made the pass and the two married shortly thereafter. Margaret went on to become his perfect keeper, maker of egg sandwiches, bearer of his idiosyncrasies and loving mother to their two girls Debbie and Kelly, and his truest, most loyal of loves and life partner for more than 53 years.
He was a quiet father, always said yes but "go ask your mother," dependable, never pushing his own idealisms upon his children. His son-in-law Mike, who came to him later by way of his marriage to his daughter Debbie, was a comfort to him. He loved his grandsons Loren and Avery, always asking of them and their adventures and pictures of "Rosie" and "Rocco" his doggie grandchildren. Of all his loves, his greatest was his family.
He was an easy friend. The guy everyone wanted to be around. Amiable. Funny was he, possessing impeccable comedic timing, often with a quick interjection, or after a quiet pause in conversation. He never wasted his words, let others shine and won respect by simply being Dennis.
But he was brilliant. A world-renowned inventor and chemist who held 156 United States golf ball related patents in his name, he designed the Strata, Top Flight and Flying Lady golf ball. He was a research fellow at Spalding Sports and is credited within the industry as having invented the multi-layer golf ball for which all modern-day balls are now modeled after. He has a hallway named after him at Callaway Corporate and was honored in Scotland at St. Andrews for his life contributions towards the evolution of the game of golf. He had not a doctorate in any discipline in science, nor a masters, or a bachelors even. He advanced himself in his own education and became the top expert in his field and mentor to his fellows whose degrees hung on walls.
In consummate irony, Dennis didn't really care all that much about the game of golf. If asked by his colleagues to play golf he was famously known to maintain three pre-requisites (1.) it must be during the work week, (2.) it must be a private course and (3.) it must have free beer.
A world traveler, he and Margaret visited too many places to mention, his top four favorites being Italy, Norway, Australia and his ancestral Ireland.
His chosen arts were photography and winemaking. When not documenting his travels by capturing beautiful vistas and cityscapes, nature was his muse. And like every other chosen field of study, he did it skillfully. He had an eye for composition and trained himself in the elements of good photography and was recognized with many awards. He made his own wine from his own grapes, using the "Nesbitt Vitis Rotundifolia" variety, chosen for both its namesake and cultivar attributes. His background in science and affinity for horticulture gave him a natural aptitude for viticulture and wine-making.
He owned an extensive t-shirt collection, 48 at last count. His favorite, affectionately known by us as "the Alaska one" was a trinity of grizzlies, composed like a multiple exposure eighties portrait. His philosophy was armchair and sense of humor observational. He often twiddled his thumbs, not figuratively, but like a sport in leisurely exercise. He was a man of habit, well-groomed, a gifted whistler and lover of nature documentaries. He was a common-sense skeptic, the embodiment of the quintessential libra and aficionado of witticisms such as "lettuce, turnip and pee." He loved his orange trees, the Farmer's Almanac and was an avid weather enthusiast who kept a barometer and electronic thermometer which he referenced several times a day.
By his chair, he maintained a bowl of personal accoutrements containing, but not limited to: several scientific monocles, an eye glass repair kit, a vial of travel toothpicks, pocket knife, tweezers, nail clippers, and a trusty nail file. These will be perhaps the most sentimental of our tangible inheritances.
And of this piece, this pithy little prosopography of one man's life he would say, with an affirming nod, soft smile, and quick lift of brow. "Yeah, good summary."
He departed just past the third hour, beneath a waxing gibbon moon, on his way to full illumination, to meet again his antecedents in the sky. Just as the earth mother had earlier called the clever crows to care for his vines, she fell down the rain to water his orchard, as if say, "Now you may go."
He will be missed greatly.
In all his disciplines in life he was thoroughly dedicated.
So many of his contributions will have a butterfly effect that endure for years, if not decades.
He was superb.
He was our Renaissance man.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to The Path Farm, a central Florida 25-acre farm with 14 hydroponic greenhouses which cultivates seasonal pesticides-free fruits, and vegetables for rescue missions, county food banks and other food organizations - to supply fresh, locally-grown fruit to those in need.
To make a gift go to: https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/ThePathof
CitrusCounty/PathRMOnlineGiving.html or donate via check to The Path, PO Box 3024, Inverness, FL 34451. Please specify in the "additional comments" or in "memo" section that your contribution is designated to the Farm Co-op in memory of
Also welcomed, donations made in his name to a club or charity of your choice
Sign the guest book at www.chronicleonline.com.
Published by Citrus County Chronicle on Jan. 31, 2021.