Bob Reinecke

Bob Reinecke’s life is marked by high accomplishments and an insatiable love of learning. An eye surgeon and former medical director of the Wills Eye Institute, Bob has written over 200 scientific publications related to the human eye. He is a father to one daughter and husband to his late wife, who passed away seven years ago. Bob’s eclectic passions include shirt-making, long-distance running (he ran a 50 mile race on his 50th birthday), and perhaps most passionately, fly fishing. He spent many summers fishing at a vacation home near Lake Placid, NY. In the photograph above,Bob is holding a fly that he hand tied.


Bob was also involved in politics and came up with the slogan that gave his friend Harris Wofford a come from behind victory in his 1991 senate race: “If criminals have the right to a lawyer, a working man should have the right to see a doctor.”


These days, Bob leads a very quiet life at his home near Headhouse Square. When I met with him last week, he was looking out the window, meditating on the natural world. “When I sit in this room looking onto the garden, I often see a butterfly in the hedges. Every time it enters the garden, it follows an identical route. It flies near the hedge, does a circle, then exits the same way. It’s amazing that it knows to do that.”


Bob also spoke of his childhood in the 1930s midwest.


“I grew up in a small town in Kansas. From 10 to 17, I apprenticed with a local watchmaker who was also an ophthalmologist. He was very kind to me, like a second father. It was through his mentorship that I developed an interest in the human eye and medicine.”


Bob has Parkinson’s disease and, as a doctor, is keenly aware of how it is progressively affecting him. He has a harder time speaking and remembering. He spoke of how frustrating it is to be aware of his decline but not able to stop it. And yet Bob stressed how grateful he is for the life he’s lived.


“Being alive is a joy. It’s just unfathomable how wonderful life is and it continues to be exciting for me, every single day. I have been so blessed in my life. My medical career was delightful. I’ve been blessed with a family, with friends, and with church. It just seems like everything fell into place for me.”

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