MERIDEN — The community is mourning the sudden death of renowned eye doctor E. Robert Bertolli.
Bertolli, a city native and Durham resident, died Sunday after being “stricken in his home,” according to his obituary. He was 62.
Bertolli was inducted into the Meriden Hall of Fame on Oct. 20.
“Today, we grieve his passing and keep his family in our thoughts and prayers,” Mayor Kevin Scarpati said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “His work has left an immeasurable impact on our community and our nation that we will never forget.”
Bertolli worked for 30 years as a civilian optometrist before becoming an Air Force medical officer around the age of 58. He most recently served as the Chief of Optometry for the 150th Special Operations Wing Medical Group at the New Mexico Air National Guard’s base in Kirtland, New Mexico.
Bertolli planned to serve as an aerospace medical officer until he was 68, he said during a speech at the Meriden Hall of Fame’s 43rd annual induction ceremony last month.
Over his optometry career, Bertolli received several accolades, including being named 2012 Connecticut Optometrist of the Year by the Connecticut General Assembly and being named Armed Forces Optometric Society Reserve Officer of the Year in 2017.
After graduating from Maloney High School, Bertolli earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fairfield University in 1979 before receiving a Doctor of Optometry at New England College of Optometry in 1984, according to his obituary.
He started his career in advanced optometry before transitioning into treatment and therapy of traumatic brain injuries related to vision. He also served as an expert witness on the subject for law enforcement agencies over his career.
“My treating eye disease wasn’t challenging enough,” Bertolli joked during his acceptance speech last month, “so I learned vision therapy and treatment of traumatic brain injury and then vision science-related forensics and impaired driving investigations.”
Bertolli decided to use his expertise to serve his country by entering the Air Force as a medical officer.
“Still wanting to do more and having had many veterans in our family from World War I and World War II, Bob wanted to do more for the armed services and his country, so he applied for and was awarded by the Secretary of the Air Force a miracle age waiver because he was already in his 50s,” Bertolli’s sister, Lisa Marchetti, said while presenting for her brother at the induction ceremony.
To pass a physical exam for the military, Bertolli had to train for months and lose 75 pounds. He thanked his sister and brother-in-law Guy Marchetti Jr. for supporting him through his training and career.
“The award should really belong to my sister,” Bertolli said.
Bertolli’s mother and father, Jean Tamburine Bertolli and Eugene E. Bertolli; were also inducted into the Meriden Hall of Fame.
His mother, who died in 2013, was inducted for her decorated career as an artist and his father, who died in 2015, was inducted for his career as a sculptor, goldsmith and silversmith
Bertolli used his parents as a source of inspiration, he said during his acceptance speech .
“They created an atmosphere of striving for knowledge and skills and service to people and community,” he said.