Optometrist spends retirement going back to work he loves

By Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Many people dream of their retirement day, and finally find time to pick up new hobbies or travel but for Dr. Robert Lidkea, it is the last thing on his mind.

Lidkea was born in North Bay and came to Fort Frances after he graduated university. He said he would have stayed in North Bay but there were no openings for an optometrist and he was forced to find a job elsewhere.

Lidkea came to Fort Frances in 1952 to become part of the Fort Frances Clinic. At the time the clinic only had two M. D’s, a dentist, an optometrist who was looking to retire and a pharmacy.

In 1952 Lidkea was the youngest practicing optometrist in Ontario and now in 2021, he is the oldest optometrist at 90. He graduated as a registered optometrist in 1952 from the College of Optometrists in Toronto and in 1957, he returned for his post graduate studies and earned his doctor of optometry.

Lidkea said jokingly he continues to work because he needs the money, but in reality he said he could not stay home all day.

Lidkea said he officially retired on Jan.1 and went back to work on Jan. 21.

“I just enjoy doing what I’m doing, that’s all,” Lidkea said. “I’m happy to come to work.”

It may only be for one day a week, but Lidkea said he always looks forward to it.

Lidkea was president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists from 1975 to 1976. He was accepted as a fellow in the American Academy of Optometrists in 1983 and was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Waterloo in 1987.

Lidkea said when he first began practicing, an eye exam was $3.

“It’s quite a long stretch since then,” Lidkea said. “A lot of knowledge and a lot of changes, knowledge and training, everything’s changed.”

Lidkea said he has been learning all his life as the training never stops.

“When I graduated there was not even such a thing as calculator so it’s been a very long learning process but it’s not all at once, it’s been very gradual,” Lidkea said.

He adds that is has been helpful working with his son Bruce who has been able to coach him through all the new technology. Bruce is now the primary practitioner.

Lidkea has also been an active member in the community, through clubs and volunteer work. He has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Fort Frances since he came in 1952 and has 60 years of perfect attendance. He became president of the club in 1961 and was elected Lt. Governor in 1973. He has now been the secretary for many years.

Lidkea was also elected to town council for two terms and has served on many local boards.

In 2004, Lidkea was honoured with the Ontario Association of Optometrists 2004 Milenium Award for Public Service. The award recognizes a member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists who has performed extraordinary public service in either a professional or non-professional capacity.

In 2007, Lidkea received the Fort Frances Citizen of the Year award.

Lidkea said his favourite part of the job is interacting with people in the community, adding that in some families, he has cared for five generations.

“It’s been an interesting life,” Lidkea said. “My wife and I have been blessed with good health and we’re getting by quite well.”

Lidkea said he gets to see his two sons quite often and has coffee with his friends every morning at 10 a.m. sharp.

The secret to a long career, according to Lidkea, is being passionate about what you do.

“If you’re eager to get to work in the morning, you’ve got the right job,” Lidkea said. “If you aren’t happy going to work, you got the wrong job.”