Robert Earl Fenton

September 30, 1933 ~ December 28, 2020 (age 87)


Robert was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933.  Unhappy family circumstances put him in an orphanage until high school, when he moved to Cleveland to live with his grandmother.  He determined early in life that he had to make his own destiny.  The first of his many life achievements was at West high school, as his cross-country team won the State title.  The bond with his teammates lasted his lifetime.  A 20-month tenure on Lake Superior shoveling iron ore combined with scholarships and military service as an Air Force Intelligence Officer, funded his pursuit of higher education.  HIs aptitude and desire for financial security steered him into engineering, while simultaneously raising two children and a succession of unorthodox pets with his wife, Alice.  His success first as a student, then as faculty and researcher at Ohio State University was the result of years of hard work, innovation, and collaborations that were the joy of his professional life.  His foundational research in vehicular control technology and automated highway systems eventually led to his election into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2003.  Even in retirement, he continued service through OSU as a lecturer and NAE consultant.  Though his professional activity slowed, his love of learning did not.  He devoted himself to a higher understanding of art, music, literature, history, wine, and the family and friends with whom he shared these interests.  He remained active in body as well as mind, with over a quarter million miles logged in a bicycle seat over the past 3 decades.  Even as age drained his vitality, he found joy in the domestic pleasures that he shared with Elaine, the second love of his life.  

Robert led a rich life in pursuit of his passions while demonstrating an unwavering commitment to hard work, personal responsibility, and self-determination.  He conducted his affairs, whether personal or professional, with humility, honesty, and an innate sense of fairness.   He was a son, brother, husband, and father.  He was a mate, colleague, confidant, and friend; a neighbor, companion, correspondent, and author. He was a teacher, mentor, scholar, and inventor; an athlete, competitor, cyclist, and fan; a connoisseur, enthusiast, and renaissance man. He left the world richer than he found it. May we each endeavor to honor his legacy by remembering how we knew and loved him best. 

Robert was preceded in death by Alice, his wife of 50 years who passed away in 2006; and thereafter by Elaine, a constant companion during his final 5 years, who passed in May of 2020.  Robert is survived by his two children, Erich (& wife, Teresa) and Andrea (& husband, Robert), and their respective families; and his many friends with whom he shared so much during his 87 years of life.           

Private family services. Contributions may be made in Roberts honor to the American Battlefield Trust at: or ASPCA at:


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Private Family Service

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