Robert Litz Penrose, Sr., has contributed meaningfully to the documentation of the history of Avalon through his authorship of Avalon on the Seven-Mile Beach, a trove of deeply researched information, especially regarding Avalon’s early history and origins. Further, Mr. Penrose and his family have kept and lovingly restored an 1890 Victorian home on 9th Street and 1st Avenue, known as the Monstrosity.
He was born to Marie L. and James F. Penrose on October 26, 1929 and grew up in Upper Darby and Wynnewood, graduating from St. Colman’s Catholic School, St. Joseph’s Prep, and Villanova University. He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. He worked in accounting, carpentry and real estate, but his true passions were pursued as hobbies. A longtime participant in Narberth Community Theatre and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he enjoyed acting as an extra in Philadelphia-based films. He enjoyed sailing and was intensely interested in railroad history, interests which laid the foundation for his exhaustive research on the early development of South Jersey beach communities. He spent many years in the Cape May County archives researching the history of the Jersey shore for his 2006 book, Avalon on the Seven-Mile Beach. In his retirement years, he also volunteered at Bryn Mawr Hospital and as a driver for the American Red Cross.
Mr. Penrose passed away, following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, on June 26, 2019. Those researching Avalon’s history rely upon Mr. Penrose’s work, and his memory will live on as his book continues to be an inspiration and source of knowledge for many generations to come.
Photos courtesy of the Penrose family.