Deceased April 14, 2019
Bob Kingman passed away on April 14, 2019, near his home in Topsham, Maine. Having fought lymphoma in 1998, it returned in 2015, along with a diagnosis of bile-duct cancer in 2018. Bob is survived by his brothers Joseph and William Kingman, wife Judith Watters and his children Eddie and Meagan and stepchildren Amy, Sam and Claire.
Bob was not the first in his family to attend Amherst. He followed a long line of Kingman family members including his grandfather Joseph 1883, uncle Henry 1915, father Joseph II 1924, brother Joseph III 1949 and many cousins too numerous to mention. While at Amherst, Bob was one of the co-founders of Boltwood House, a unique residential service organization that successfully took over the Beta fraternity house after it was disbanded in 1969. During his time at Amherst, Bob took a year off to study photography as well as to obtain his treasured lederhosen! Following graduation, Bob stayed on as college photographer for several years. It was during this time that Bob started working in his eventual career field at the Institute for Living in Hartford.
Raised in Wayzata, Minn., his parents shaped his life path in many ways—through their care for others as educators and through their love of the outdoors, especially skiing and golf. Bob attended the Blake School from primary through high school; earned a B.A. at Amherst, a J.D. at the University of Maine Law School and a M.Ed. at Antioch University. He found his true vocational calling as a mental health and substance abuse counselor. Bob achieved success and recognition for his work with individuals facing challenging mental health and chemical dependency issues. Over the years, children, teens and adults found an unwavering advocate, guide and supporter in him. In turn, Bob was enriched by those who honored him with their trust.
Bob made friends everywhere he went. His gentle nature, intelligence and zany humor drew people to him, and the energy they returned was his life source. There was never a party with friends or family he didn’t want to attend. He loved being active and outdoors, was a talented photographer and filled his life with a wide range of music.
Bob’s greatest joy in life came from his relationship with his children, Eddie and Meagan. He was exceedingly proud of them and enjoyed being a part of everything they did. Just before his death, Bob said he would return as the wind when his children asked whether he would give them a sign from the afterlife. Bob knew that the wind always blew on their Maine coast! For the last 15 years, Bob found the love of his life in his wife, Judi. They enjoyed traveling, skiing and sailing together and the company of their family and friends. Even through the most difficult times of Bob’s lengthy fight with cancer, Judi kept everyone informed of his fierce determination to live, through frequent public journal entries. As Bob himself said, there was never a time he didn’t feel fully alive.
Kinger, as we all knew him, worked and played hard throughout his life. As noted by Jim Maitland ’72, longtime friend, Kinger was serious about everything. Whether it was a golf match, a difficult challenge in his counseling practice or perfecting his air-drumming skills in James Hall as a college freshman (I can see Kinger flawlessly wailing to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” like it was yesterday), Kinger never held back. Bob was also a committed ski instructor to the physically disabled for the past 15 years of his life.
Activities with Kinger were always memorable. I believe it was sophomore year Easter 1970. We had read in the New York Times that the queen of jazz singers, Ella Fitzgerald, was playing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at Lincoln Center in NYC. We scraped up the money to buy tickets, but assuming this was a very classy event, we knew we didn’t own the right kind of clothes. Always keen on appearance, Kinger came up with the idea of borrowing black tie and tails tuxes from classmates who were in the Glee Club. And, of course, no one had black shoes but we made due. Notice Kinger’s golf shoes in picture.
We then piled into Tom Moss ’72’s Corvair (later to be taken off the road by a Ralph Nader prompted recall. Seems as though the car was prone to catch on fire!) bought a gallon jug of Gallo Chianti and off we went to the Big Apple.
We finally arrived amidst a very hip and chic audience (none of whom were in tuxes) and spent the night being asked directions to the bathrooms as everyone assumed we were the ushers! It was a fantastic concert, and afterwards, we went to a very fancy bar in the Chrysler building where we realized we didn’t have enough money to pay for New York-priced cocktails, so Kinger ended up ordering a bowl of ice cream and asked for four spoons!
Kinger’s memorial service was held at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine. It was a wonderful celebration of all aspects of his life. Amherst buddies Jim Maitland ’72, Jeff Craven ’72, Pete Shea ’72, Ted Smith ’73, Jack Perry ’72, Tom Kennedy ’73 and Marc Beebe ’69 were able to attend. Jeff had written a song that described Kinger’s passion for life. Jim spoke of the adventures of being Kinger’s roommate and claimed that he and Bob had actually invented the air guitar and air drums. One of Kinger’s lifelong friends from childhood in Minnesota, Dodd Cosgrove, shared that Bob, even at the age of 12, was a tall, gangly boy, who quickly befriended newcomer Dodd when they met at the Blake School. Dodd also reminisced about traveling with Tom Moss ’72 to visit Kinger in Maine in the summer of 2018, during some of Bob’s most difficult months, and how they found him in great spirits, despite all he was going through. He went on to tell us an amazing tale. Dodd and his wife had heard that Bob had gone into hospice while they were vacationing in Florida. They went to their favorite beach to meditate early one morning. They were sitting quietly on the beach when a Great Blue Heron flew in and unusually landed just 10 feet from them and simply gazed at them with penetrating eyes as though trying to communicate something. Dodd noted that the heron was tall, slender and elegant. The heron stayed with them for about 10 minutes before flying off. When Dodd and his wife returned to their home, there was a phone message that Bob had passed about an hour before. Dodd questions whether this was a coincidence but thinks not.
Peter Shea ’72
Jim Maitland ’72
Jeff Craven ’72
Tom Moss ’72
Ted Smith ’73