Local physician served his country and his community.
Dr. Robert “Bob” Windom’s career of helping the community started in 1948 as a senior at Sarasota High School and never stopped.
He served as the president for the high school equivalent for Kiwanis International, Key Club. At the same time, his father, Col. Ross Windom, was a Kiwanis member and was instrumental in helping start the senior living, therapy and rehabilitation facility that would be known as Pines of Sarasota.
Windom would later come to serve on the board of the organization, just one of the many contributions he made locally and nationally.
Windom died Friday. He was 86.
Born July 14, 1930, in Westerville, Ohio, Windom moved to Sarasota in 1945, when his father became Sarasota’s first city manager.
Windom graduated from Sarasota High School in 1948 with his future wife, Lelia Harmon. They attended Duke University and married a year after graduation in 1953, while Bob Windom was a medical student at Duke.
Known as “Dr. Bob,” he maintained the private practice Windom, Page, Binns and Harris, and served as the chief of staff at both Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Doctors Hospital. He was president of the Sarasota County Medical Society, Florida Heart Association, Florida Medical Association, and Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
In May 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Windom to serve as assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, the highest position in government that is required to be filled by a physician. Windom served until the end of Reagan’s presidency in 1989.
John Overton served as CEO for Pines of Sarasota while Windom was a board member and often played golf with him. Overton recalls seeking his advice regarding health care.
“I admired his past history,” Overton said. “He stood out from the standpoint that he had such a respect and admiration for every human being regardless of their position in life.”
Windom’s impact can be seen throughout Sarasota. Windom Hall at Sarasota Military Academy is named in honor of his service as the inaugural chairman of the board while the school was still in its founding stage.
“He helped us form the board and supported the development of the school in the community,” said Dan Kennedy, SMA’s co-founder. “He added a sense of dignity to the school.”
Woody Wolverton recalls his friendship with Windom, which included serving on the board for SMA together.
“He was a smart man and a good leader,” Wolverton said. “He led the board through most of the crisis that we went through in starting the new academy. Between him, Dan Kennedy and Steve Cork, they were the heart of the academy.”
Windom was a well-known Sarasota Kiwanis member who regularly participated in club outings. This year marked the 55th year for Windom as a member of Kiwanis International, and as a token of his service to the community of Sarasota, Windom received a pin and certificate.
He was also a board member of the Tiger Bay Club, The Glenridge, The Pines of Sarasota and Plymouth Harbor, and was an elder at Church of the Palms.
Windom is survived by his wife, Lelia; three sons, Bob Jr., Ross and Hugh; and six grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road.
Memorial donations in his name can be made to the Church of the Palms or Duke University School of Medicine Davison Club, P.O. Box 90581, Durham, N.C., 27708-0581.