Robert W. Roxby

Jan 10, 2020
Robert Roxby

Belfast — Robert William Roxby, age 79, died Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, at Sussman House in Rockport. His cause of death was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

He leaves his wife of 11 years, Beverly; daughters Meghan Mott of Loleta, Calif., Caitlin Roxby of Arlington, Mass., and between them five grandchildren, ranging in age from 19 to 8. Susan Judd Roxby, their mother, died in 2002. He also leaves Beverly’s three children and two grandsons.

Known as Rocket to his close friends at UMaine, Bob was born in Abington, Pa. He attended Gettysburg College, then Duke and University of North Carolina, from which he received doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. For 20 years he taught biochemistry at University of Maine in Orono, During four of those years, as department head, he strengthened the prestige of the microbiology department. His leadership and mentorship enabled colleagues to thrive as professionals. One fellow staff member says Bob was like an uncle to their children, one of many reasons why he turned down job offers at other universities.

They raised their daughters in Old Town, but also lived briefly in Holland and Germany, where Bob attended the Max Planck Institute. Bob taught his daughters to ride bicycles, drive a manual transmission car, a tractor and a boat, to row and ski, build a fire, bait a line, tie a bowline, a clove hitch and a sheepshank knot, and to have their lives enriched and enlivened by dogs. He believed that children should take risks, and always showed his unconditional loyalty and support.

A modest man about his own broad accomplishments, he nonetheless remained steadfast that there was no job in the world for which his daughters were not the most highly qualified candidates. Bob is lovingly remembered as a father and grandfather whose greatest joy was in sharing his knowledge and taking pride in the accomplishments of his family. He is further gratefully remembered by younger daughter Caitlin for advising her not to go to law school.

In 1979 his wife, Susan, and their daughters acquired a small vacation home out in Frenchboro, an island more than 8 miles south of Bass Harbor. Bob moved there full-time in 1999, and was joined by his wife, Beverly, in 2007. His rigid inflatable boat, Rocket Science, came in handy as supplement to Frenchboro’s three-times-a-week ferry. Three times faster than the ferry, the ride on his boat sometimes horrified passengers and made for at least one seasick school superintendent.

Bob is remembered by islanders as a good public servant, readily willing to do important jobs that some might call “unlovable tasks.” He was select board member, tax assessor, ballfield mower, cardboard recycling transporter, Acadia Disposal District representative — and many things that people never realized he did. He could always be depended on to come to the assistance of someone who needed his help, and provided lodging for those attending weddings and the bedsides of ailing residents. Islanders are saying things won’t be the same without him.

As summer visitors to the island, Beverly’s family thrived. Daughter Marika fished part-time, son Kris helped his young sons climb vertical Bluff Head, waves lapping their feet. Robert gave golf cart driving lessons to children as young as 7 and at one point took photos of at least four of them squeezed together for the ride, offering the freedom he had given his daughters and their children. They will miss him terribly.

When they moved to Belfast in 2012, he and Beverly became Frenchboro summer people. Once in Belfast, Robert continued volunteering, providing free assistance to those needing tax preparation, gathering signatures during freezing winters to help pass ranked-choice voting. Their kitchen became his laboratory, where he cooked some memorable meals that will never again be duplicated.

Robert had designed his and wife Beverly’s wedding ring to resemble a clove hitch knot, which he called the only knot someone would ever need — one more way that he gave his life meaning. He was one of a kind.

His life will be celebrated sometime this summer, on the island that he loved.

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