Robert A. Gillespie

Obituary
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  • "My sympathies to Tina and her family, and all of Bob's many..."
    - Jeanne and Mark Joseph
  • "Bob was a great man who will be very sorely missed by all..."
    - Monty Giddings
  • "To a fine gentlemen who was someone more interested in..."
    - lawrence wentzel
  • "Bob was a great friend and teacher, he loved my mother very..."
    - Zac Wentzel
  • "As a Colby College co-worker, softball player, and friend,..."
    - Martha McCarthy
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BENTON -- Robert A. Gillespie, 69, of Benton died after emergency surgery April 28, 2008, in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he was on vacation.

He was born Sept. 4, 1938, in Chicago, the son of Thomas H. Gillespie and Florence Stoker Gillespie. Raised in Kenilworth, Ill., he attended Joseph Sears School and graduated from New Trier High School. An excellent athlete, he was scouted by major league baseball teams, and he finished in the top five in the one-mile run at the Illinois State Track and Field Championships. He continued to run, and later in life he completed several marathons. He logged more than 35,000 miles of running in his adult life, partly by running every day, with streaks lasting years at a time. He also loved canoeing. He paddled the Mississippi River with his friend Burns Ellison and lived briefly in the Northwest Territories among the Dogrib First Nation people.

Bob earned three degrees in English: a bachelor's degree in 1961 from Cornell, where he was a member of Theta Xi fraternity, and a master's and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, where he was a teaching assistant. After receiving his doctorate, in 1970, he was an assistant professor of English at Lawrence University for a year before coming to Colby College, where he taught creative writing, composition and American literature in the 1970s and 1980s. He also taught at Idaho State and Unity College. An associate professor at Colby, he became college editor in 1986. He was editor of the alumni-at-large section and a staff writer for Colby magazine, contributing features, profiles, book reviews and news articles. He worked diligently to give all Colby publications as much consistency, coherence and grace as possible, and he set a platinum standard for typographical, grammatical and factual accuracy. He retired as college editor in 2005.

Bob was an inspiring teacher, a meticulous editor and a gifted writer of poetry, fiction and literary criticism. A book of his poems, "The Man Chain," was published in 1979. His poems also were published in journals and anthologies including "Beloit Poetry Journal," "Epoch," "The New York Quarterly," "Poetry Northwest," "Wisconsin Review," "New Voices in American Poetry" and "From A to Z: 200 Contemporary American Poets."

His relatives, many friends and students will remember Bob as a gentle man who loved to walk and snowshoe in the woods behind his home with his huskies, to swim in the creek near his property, and to read mysteries. For many years he wrote a book-review column in the Morning Sentinel focused on newly published mysteries.

Bob will be sorely missed.

He is survived by his long-time companion, Christine Wentzel of Benton; his brother, Thomas H. Gillespie Jr. of New Canaan, Conn.; nephew Thomas H. Gillespie III of Great Falls, Va., and his wife, Mary, and their children, Shea, Josephine and Thomas; nephew Douglas S. Gillespie of Encino, Calif., and his wife, Serena, and their children, Alexandra and Douglas Jr.; and niece Allison G. Spears of Atlanta, Ga., and her husband, Christopher, and their children, Ryan, Lindsay and Graham. Bob was married twice and is survived by Renee Giddings, daughter of his second wife.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at Colby's Lorimer Chapel.

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Published in Central Maine on May 2, 2008