From a Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Robert Dean Nesen, assistant Navy secretary under President Nixon and ambassador to Australia during the first term of President Reagan, has died. He was 87.

Nesen died Nov. 11 at his home in Thousand Oaks after a brief illness.

A former luxury automobile dealer, Nesen was active in Republican politics throughout his life and was a longtime friend of both Nixon and Reagan. He worked in Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign and co-chaired California’s delegation to the 1980 Republican National Convention, which nominated Reagan.

An aeronautical engineer born in St. Louis, Mich., Nesen was a Navy pilot during World War II and retired from the Naval Reserve in 1967 as a lieutenant commander. He served as Nixon’s assistant Navy secretary in Washington from 1970 to 1972.

When Reagan was governor, he named Nesen to the California state Board of Education, and as president appointed him ambassador to Australia and Nauru, an island in the South Pacific, a post Nesen held from 1981 to 1985.

Nesen is survived by his second wife, the former Virginia Crandell; two sons, Greg and Gary; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Another son, Randy, preceded him in death.