Robert Anton Cerwin died peacefully on March 19, 2021 In Shelby, N.C., surrounded by family.

Robert was born Aug. 1, 1934, in Milwaukee, to Anton F. and Mary E. Cerwin. He graduated with a degree in psychology from Carroll College in 1956. Robert married Elaine Mary Cerwin from Waukesha in 1956, and they were able to celebrate 64 years of marriage.

Robert and Elaine were married in Milwaukee and moved to Burlington, in 1958 to start CerTex Petroleum with Robert’s father. He later bought the business to form the Bob Cerwin Company and expanded to include the Firestone Store on Hwy 36, and convenience stores throughout Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

Robert was very active in the Burlington community and the Plymouth Congregational Church. He joined the Burlington Rotary Club in his late 20s. He served as president of the Burlington Rotary club, District Governor, International Director, and then Vice President of Rotary International. He also held a founding role in initiating and promoting Rotary’s global program of eradicating polio worldwide. Devoting countless hours to charity, Robert and Elaine traveled to 54 countries on six continents in their service.

Roberts was a highly sought-after international motivational speaker with a unique style of interacting with the audience, relating personal stories, and never giving the same speech twice.

Together, Robert and Elaine formed the non-profit organization, the US chapter of the British charity, Hope and Homes for Children, for orphans of war and disaster in Eastern Europe and Africa.

In his free time, Robert was an avid snowmobiler, held a private pilot license and enjoyed photography.

In 1991, Robert and Elaine moved to North Carolina to be closer to family, having lived abroad from 2011 until 2015 in Cuenca, Ecuador, and ultimately returning to Shelby, N.C.

Robert is survived by his wife, Elaine; brother Alan Richard Cerwin; daughter Debra Cerwin; son Todd (Deanna) Cerwin; daughter Janet (Dwight) Johnson; daughter-in-law, Renee Cerwin; grandchildren Joshua Sweeney, Phillip and Taylor Cerwin, Logan, Savannah, and Graham Cerwin, and Kaitlin, Jennifer, and Sydney Johnson; and great grandchild, Ellie Rexrode Johnson-Loomis. He is preceeded in death by his parents, Anton and Mary Cerwin, and son Eric Cerwin.

His children remember him as a loving, kind, engaging, ambitious, fun and devoted dad.

Due to Covid, a private service will be held for family only.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Hospice of Cleveland County at 951 Wendover Heights Drive, Shelby, NC 28150 or Rotary International Foundation, at

Cecil M. Burton Funeral Home & Crematory is serving the family. Online guest registry is available at