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Ontario’s oldest optometrist retires

By Randy Thoms Jan 13, 2024 | 2:32 PM

Bob Lidkea, January 10, 2024. Image: Randy Thoms/Acadia Broadcasting

A long-time Fort Frances optometrist has put away his eye charts for the final time.

Dr. Robert Lidkea ended a career that started almost 72 years ago.

Celebrating his 93rd birthday on January 1, Lidkea felt it was time.

“I am really lucky to feel so good for so long and be able to work. I enjoyed it. It was not a challenge going to work. Look forward to going every day, but I’m getting older and tired. My hearing is not great anymore, so I just was finding it tougher to do it,” says Lidkea.

Lidkea moved to Fort Frances in 1952, working out of the Fort Frances Clinic that later became the home to Lidkea Optometry.

He says his plan upon finishing school was to return to North Bay, where he is originally from.

“But the doctor I was supposed to go to took sick, and he got a new optometrist in, a new student. The next year, he had to totally quit, so that student got another one in, and another doctor, another optometrist, there had a bad car accident. He got a new optometrist student in. So there just was no room. I had to look around, and I found a practice here where it was a good thing.”

Lidkea says the clinic he worked at was the first in Fort Frances and included two doctors, a dentist, a drug store and himself.

“One of the doctors had a wife who had three children and wanted to stay home, so I bought her out, and I started out in one little room, about 20 by ten.”

Lidkea would expand the business after a new clinic was constructed.

There have been a lot of changes in technology and education since he first became a licensed optometrist.

He says ongoing learning allowed him to keep up with the changing trends.

“There’s so much in terms of eyewear and improvements, the equipment has changed, education has changed, and the technology. It’s really a totally different thing from when I started. And it’s just been a challenge keeping up with all the changes.”

Lidkea has not thought much about what he will do in retirement some work to do at home.

He says he may still pop in once in a while to the office now managed by his son Bruce.

He is also a long-time member of the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club, serving for 71 years and an active with his church.

Dr. Robert Lidkea (second from left) poses with son Bruce and other optometrists at Lidkea Optometry, January 10, 2024. Image: Randy Thoms/Acadia Broadcasting