Robert F. Allen
Orthopedic surgeon, good-natured family man, WWII veteran, USC football fan
Respected orthopedic surgeon Robert Francis Allen, MD, affectionately known as “Dr. Bob,” died on June 8, 2012 at his Claremont home. A resident since 1964, Dr. Allen was 86.
“Oh, he lived such a good life, a full life,” said his wife of 48 years, Michele Allen, longtime dance and cheer advisor at Claremont High School.
Born on March 1, 1926 in Milton, Massachusetts alongside his twin brother, Richard F. Allen, Dr. Allen grew up in Syracuse, New York, spending summers at the family cottage in Thousand Islands Park, NY and waterskiing on the St. Lawrence River. Into his adulthood and senior years, the park and river remained favorite places to visit.
After graduating with honors and serving as valedictorian at Wauconda High School in Illinois, he enlisted in the US Navy and served from 1944-46 along with his twin brother and older brother, Cliff. Their father, Captain John Louis Allen, had graduated from the naval academy, and all 4 were engaged in World War II.
While earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education at Beloit College in Wisconsin, from which he graduated in 1949, Dr. Allen played on the football team with his brothers and proudly served as president of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Although a P.E. major, he taught biology for 2 years at Mt. Carroll High School in Illinois while also coaching the basketball team before changing careers and completing his MD at the University of Chicago Medical School in 1956.
Following an internship, several orthopedic and general surgery residencies and 6 months of practice in Alaska, he moved to California where he began his orthopedic surgery practice at the Fisher-Hauch Medical Clinic and Pomona Valley Community Hospital (PVCH). He was certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery in 1966, became a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery in 1968 and belonged to numerous medical societies over the years.
In 1963, while participating in Pomona Valley Hospital’s “High Fever Follies” fundraiser, Dr. Allen met his future wife, Michele, who was teaching the Can-Can to doctors in attendance. Three months later, they married on Dr. Allen’s birthday.
Over the next decade, he helped deliver their 5 children: Roberta, John, Kenneth, Robert and Michele. Despite his busy practice, Dr. Allen was an involved father, attending all of his children’s hockey, baseball and soccer games and participating in their Indian Guides and Boy Scouts activities. With joy, he built his children a tree house and a pirate boat and labored away digging army trenches in the yard for play.
“He was always there for us,” said Mrs. Allen. “Some doctors set aside family for their patients, but he struck a good balance.”
In 1973, Dr. Allen moved his practice to Glendora, becoming the only orthopedic surgeon in the community at the time.
On one occasion, a motorcyclist severely injured his knee in an accident in the desert, but emergency room physicians at the nearest hospital were not equipped to handle the extent of the damage. One of the desert doctors said, “The best orthopedic surgeon in the Southland for this type of injury is Dr. Robert Allen at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora.” The patient was transferred and, within hours, Dr. Allen began repairing the man’s knee.
In 1986, Dr. Allen became chief of staff at Foothill Presbyterian.
A significant highlight in his career was becoming the first physician in California to practice arthroscopic surgery. He gave lectures and presented papers on the new technique around the country. He also taught at several institutions over the course of his career, including UCLA Extension in LA and Hawaii and the USC School of Medicine Post Graduate Division.
Dr. Allen’s reputation as an excellent physician followed him not only through his professional life but also into his volunteer efforts as Claremont High School’s football team physician. He also freely gave his time as the team physician for Azusa Pacific University and “Claremont-Mudd,” the joint team of Claremont Men’s (now McKenna) and Harvey Mudd Colleges.
Having become friends with most of the teaching staff of CHS, Dr. Allen often taught in Mr. Walker’s biology class, providing an opportunity for students to work with cadavers. Frequently, he was invited to the school’s career night to talk about his work and encourage students to continue their education and consider medicine as their college major.
When his children were attending USC or Cal State Long Beach, Dr. Allen never missed a football game. Rarely seen without his USC hat, he loved the fun and camaraderie of pre-game tailgate parties. He had his own history of athleticism, including golf, water and snow skiing, football and sailing. Teaching his children sports, as well as how to ride a bike, fly a kite and drive a sizable motorboat, delighted Dr. Allen.
He also enjoyed games and activities that energized his mind, such as playing cribbage, completing crossword puzzles and reading voraciously—The Deerslayer, Moby Dick and Louis L’Amour westerns were favorites. He took pleasure in collecting jokes, cartoons and fascinating science facts for his grandchildren. Boiled lobster, steamed clams, raw oysters, chocolate and vanilla ice cream and apple pie a la mode were among his favorite foods. Dr. Allen also loved all types of music and played the banjo, ukulele and trombone. He especially enjoyed opera and barbershop quartet performances.
“He was the only one who would go to a football game listening to opera and come back singing barbershop in his USC hat,” said his wife. “He was very well-rounded.”
One of Dr. Allen’s favorite outings was to the Maritime Museum of San Diego where he found great interest in exploring the refurbished Star Ship of India. At home, he took pride in his vegetable garden, happy among his carrots and tomatoes.
A man who was up for almost anything, Dr. Allen had a fun sense of humor and was willing to don costumes for Halloween, children’s theater performances and themed fundraisers, and even perform the Can-Can in front of a crowd.
To his patients, friends and family, he was known to be kind, patient and unassuming.
“He was loyal, trustworthy—he’s the one who could keep a secret!” Mrs. Allen commented. “And he loved and accepted everyone unconditionally.”
Dr. Allen is survived by his wife, Michele Allen of Claremont; his daughters and sons-in-law, Roberta and Geoff Schuller of Mission Viejo and Michele and Kris Peterson of Upland; his sons and daughters-in-law, John and Liz Allen of North Carolina, Kenny and Jacquie Allen of Alta Loma and Robert F. Allen II and Nancy Allen of Upland; and his grandchildren, Geoffrey, Melanie, Bradley and Riley Schuller; Taylor, Broder, Kenneth, Louis and Lanie Allen; Robert Francis III, Samuel and Grace Allen; and Nicholas Allen Petersen.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, June 28, 2012 at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Claremont. A reception will follow. A military ceremony will be held at 2:15 p.m. on the same day at Riverside National Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Dr. Robert Francis Allen Foundation, 2058 N. Mills Ave., PMB #219, Claremont, CA 91711.