Robert Innocent Brent


Robert Innocent Brent was born on Sunday, 28 December 1890 at nine in the morning. Being the 11th child in the family, with many names already used, and probably decided on the day of his birth - December 28 was the Day of Holy Innocents on the Catholic calendar - Innocent was chosen as his middle name.

He was born to Francis Celestino Brent – known as F.C. – and Mary Ella Shuttleworth, a well-known Pensacola family. The family was well to do, F.C. being involved in banking and the lumber industry. The family lived on Romana Street and had a summer home and farm called Brentwood located several miles from downtown.

All the children were given a good education, with the girls being sent away to boarding schools during their high school years. Robert was no exception. He began his schooling at the Sisters School, run by the Sisters of Mercy in Pensacola. Then he and his brother William Louis Brent – known as Tuff – went to the Pensacola Classical School, also known as the Professor Armstrong School, run by Henry Clay Armstrong. The school had a strong emphasis on the Latin and the classics.

Robert was accepted at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, but when Robert arrived there, only sixteen years old, he was told to return home and study one more year and come back when he was seventeen. He did, graduating from Princeton in 1912. Princeton University played an important part in his life and he went back there many times in later years to attend reunions.

Robert as a young boy


Willie, left, and Robert at Brentwood, 1897

Robert’s first job after graduation was at Stone and Webster, the company that managed Pensacola’s electric trolley cars. His mother had died from cancer in 1905, the day before Christmas. This was a great blow to the family, especially his father. After his father had a stroke and was told to rest, Robert went with his father on the tour of the western United States and Canada. The spent five or six weeks in San Francisco alone, and while traveling, met up with several of Robert’s former Princeton classmates.

After traveling with his father, Robert worked as a bookkeeper for the National Bank of Commerce in Pensacola. His father died in 1914 and some time after that, a former classmate at Princeton led him to a job with a licorice company which led to him traveling to Turkey and Syria. He also worked for a bank in New York and, according to family history, he was detained in Syria during World War I and it was awhile before he returned. He went back to the bank in Manhattan after the war and it was there that he married in 1920.

Florence Waller “Flossie” Burke, was a classmate of Robert’s sister Genevieve, born in New York to Bernard J. Burke and Florence Waller. They married on 18 September 1920 in New York City. They lived in Tarrytown, New York, for the first years of their marriage. Robert was the chief accountant for an import-export company. Four children were born in New York: Francis Celestino “Tino,” Florence Burke “Flossie,” John Burke, and Mary Carroll.

When the Depression hit in 1929, Robert’s company closed. He developed pneumonia and the family eventually moved to Pensacola, living in part of the old Brent family home on LaRua St. Robert worked for the Social Security Administration for about a year.

During the 1930s Robert began to have eye problems, either detached retinas or cataracts or both, and lost the sight in both eyes. He was never able to work again. The family moved to a house on Brainerd Street in Pensacola, one that had belonged to his sister, Frances, and her husband, Harold. The house was next door to his sister Mollie Brent Mare and her husband Jack.

In 1935 their son Tino died from a kidney disease caused by tuberculosis. Despite these hardships, Robert learned to read Braille and listened to the radio. He loved to play the piano and to visit with friends and relatives and tell stories. Their other son, John, died in 1967. Florence died in 1981 and Robert went to live with his daughter, Mary. Robert died on 18 May 1985 in Pensacola and is buried with his wife, Flossie, in St. Michael’s Cemetery.

Robert Brent's wife and children, L-R: Florrie, Tino, Mary, Florence and John.
November 1930, Tarrytown, New York.

The Robert Brent family home on Brainerd Street in Pensacola

Related Links
Record of birth in the Brent family Bible
Notice of engagement: Robert I. Brent and Florence W. Burke, 1920
Gravestone of Robert Innocent Brent
Gravestone of Florence Burke Brent
Obituary of Robert Brent
Obituary of Florence Burke Brent

The photographs above were handed down in the family - except for the one of Flossie in the white dress, taken in 1908,which is courtesy of Kitt Lough and Stephen Engel. The photo of Robert was taken in 1920 in New York. The photo of the house on Brainerd Street was taken between 1930 and 1932 when Frances Brent Fick, Robert's sister, and her family were living in the house.

Anne Healy's Genealogy, Created October 2002
Photographs and web page content,Copyright © 2002-2009, Anne Field, all rights reserved.
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5 Aug 2015
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