FALMOUTH — It was a hard decision for his parents, as family letters showed.

Should they send their 6-year-old boy to live with strangers in England, protecting him from the Nazis, who had occupied Vienna, Austria, and arrested his father?

The decision was made in 1939 to send Robert Georg Sommer to live with a foster family in England.

Luckily, the Germans freed his father a year later and Sommer and his parents were able to emigrate to the United States before America entered World War II.

Dr. Sommer, a longtime resident of Falmouth, passed away April 1. He was 76.

“He just had this perseverance and tenacity about him that was embodied in this gentle, kind and slight-of-build package. He amazed all of us,” said a son, Jeffrey Sommer of West Bath.

Born in 1933 in Vienna, Mr. Sommer was evacuated from the country through Kindertransport, the rescue mission that took place in the early months of the war.

The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 children from Nazi Germany and several occupied territories. A small percentage of those children, including Mr. Sommer, were reunited with their parents.

“My father was placed on a train and sent to England. He did not speak any English,” said another son, John Sommer of Portland. “His parents did not know what was going to happen. Things looked pretty grim.”

Mr. Sommer’s family had someone translate the letters which his parents had written back in the 1930s.

Those letters told a story of parents conflicted about letting their only child go to live with strangers.

After moving around the United States, the Sommer family wound up in Richmond, Maine, where Sommer’s father, Robert, became the community’s general practitioner.

It was in the fields and woods around Richmond and on the nearby Kennebec River that Mr. Sommer grew to love the outdoors, his son, John, said.

“He loved the town of Richmond. It was where he learned to hunt, fish and to ski,” his son said.

After graduating from Kents Hill School, Mr. Sommer earned his medical degree. He practiced dermatology in the Portland area for 30 years, and served as director of the division of dermatology at Maine Medical Center for many years.

His true passion in life was fly fishing. It didn’t matter if it was saltwater or freshwater.

He fished all over Maine, but his favorite spot was Baxter State Park.

His son, Jeffrey, said his father would take him and his brothers every year to Baxter.

“We started going in high school,” he said. “We did it every year, including last year. It was like a rite of passage for him.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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