A lifelong Vermonter, Bob brought New England reserve and restraint to Amherst.
He was quiet, humble and courteous. You never mistook him for a party-boy. But he wasn’t shy. He channeled his considerable energies into constructive community activities. A partial list includes chair of the Blood Drive, managing editor of the Olio, vice chair of The Student, Christian Association, Masquers, house manager of Theta Delt and Sphinx.
All this activity was preparing Bob for a return to Vermont and a career in public life. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1961, Bob started off at Ryan, Smith, & Carbine in Rutland. He went on to be state’s attorney for Rutland County (1965-69) and a member of the Vermont General Assembly (1969-73). He served for many years as a grand juror and member of the Vermont Judicial Selection Board. He was Vermont’s first defender general. In addition, he served on the boards of the Boy Scouts and other service organizations.
Jim West, Bob’s brother, described his two main passions after he eventually left state politics: local history and the outdoors. Jim remembers that Bob spent much time volunteering for the Manchester (Vt.) Historical Society. “He was their program chairman for many years and brought many interesting programs to the Manchester community. As Manchester was chartered back in 1761, he had over 200 years of its history to draw on. The community had evolved from a very self-sustaining lifestyle, through its many changes, to a town that depends very much on tourism.”
Jim added, “His programs included such topics as the marble quarrying industry, sheep-raising, lumbering, charcoal kilns, dairying, and then into the tourist industry of the present day.” At the time of his death, Bob had accumulated a huge number of artifacts connected with the history of the Manchester community and its surrounding neighbors. Many of these were given to the society.
Jim will “never forget an article about Bob’s interest and participation in these hikes. Bob always described them as being easy to moderate in difficulty. A local businessman was quoted in the local newspaper as saying, “Moderate, my a__!” From what I, his brother, had experienced myself, this gentleman had a better handle on the situation than Bob. Bob always underestimated the difficulty of a hike for someone who had not done as much of this type of physical activity as he had.”
Bob married in 1969 and had a daughter, Susan. The marriage ended a number of years before his death. Bob spent the last years of his life working for the Stratton Corporation during their long winter mountain seasons. “Come springtime,” Jim remembers, “he returned to his many hours given to the historical society.”
Robert Edward West died April 19, 2005, from a lung fibrosis condition, complicated by pneumonia.