Robert E. “Piano Bob” Brown died Aug. 31, 2009, in Delray Beach, Fla., from complications of colon cancer surgery. Also weakened by lung cancer, he passed peacefully in just a few days. His nephew, Gordon Curtis Brown, and his niece, Janet Alexander, reported his death and handled arrangements.
Bob came to Amherst from Rochester, N.Y., majoring in dramatic arts. Then it was on to the U.S. Army, followed by Wharton to work on an M.B.A. He then moved back to Rochester to work for Rumrill Advertising. In 1965, when Rumrill opened in New York, Bob moved to Manhattan, a culture shock shifting from a large mahogany-paneled apartment to a one-room studio in Kips Bay. He later joined Simplicity Patterns, the world leader in the fast-moving sewing industry, rising to advertising and promotion director with great freedom for creative expression in an unpredictable business. Before long, he was living in a co-op overlooking Central Park.
In 1986, Bob made a daring career change, moving to Boca Raton, Fla., to pursue real estate sales and mortgage brokerage. Later moving to the intercoastal in Del Ray Beach, he took on appraisals as well, working for the last 13 years of his life for Diane Daly’s appraisal firm. “Bob was a very kind, compassionate and caring person,” says Diane. “He was the most thorough appraiser I ever had, totally dedicated to his work. I really loved him.”
Bob is survived by a niece, Janet Alexander, living in Lugano, Switzerland; a nephew, Gordon Curtis Brown of Snow Camp, N.C.; and a sister-in-law, Joan Brown of Rochester, N.Y. His partner of over 50 years, Olin Vest, ailing at Bob’s death, is now living at the Atrium of Boca Raton, an assisted-living facility. He is doing quite well.
—Philip W. Ransom, Jr. ’53