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Robert Thomas Farrell

Died: January 16, 1988

Bob is best remembered for his wit, his music, and his love of the bizarre. He was a Whiffenpoof at Yale and, in his last ten years, a member of the Seattle Men’s Chorus, joining soon after its founding in 1979. His solo on “The Old Grey Bonnet” graces the Whiffenpoof’s 1966 album, The Whiffenpoofs on the Rocks.

Friends from Yale remember Bob’s many stories about fantastic characters from his childhood in Madison, Wisconsin, some of which were made up and all of which were delightfully embroidered. His studio apartment in Japan featured a precise copy of an encyclopedia line drawing of a flea, blown up to about one foot long by one foot high.

After taking a fifth year at Yale to finish his degree requirements, Bob spent two years teaching in the Freshman English Program at International Christian University in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan. He was one of a group of six Ivy graduates hired to make the freshman students at ICU fluent enough in English to take many of their classes in English. Bob was instrumental in redesigning and rewriting the curriculum for the program. The students at ICU were frequently on strike to protest Japan’s Joint Defense Treaty with the United States so Bob jumped aboard his motorcycle when the strikes started and traveled extensively around Japan. He was particularly fascinated by Japanese art, architecture and, of course, music.

On returning to the States, Bob earned his law degree at the University of Washington and then worked as a lawyer at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla and, thereafter, as counsel to the Washington State Bar Association in Seattle. Bob’s home in Seattle featured one room with bookshelves covering several walls, filled with VHS tapes of old movies, his favorite being The Long Long Trailer with Luci and Desi. In the dining room and kitchen were enormous cages for his collection of exotic birds. And in the basement, a 100 gallon aquarium with coral reef for a tropical fish and supply business. With his partner and lover, Craig Gauthier, he often traveled to exotic climes to scuba dive and prospect for exotic species for the aquarium. He and Craig loved to go to and sponsor costume parties. Bob’s favorite costume followed a wild west theme, with chaps and all. He and Craig gave an annual party that was legendary in Seattle circles. Hand-written invitations on the finest paper went out to all invitees along with a feather from one of Bob’s exotic birds. Bob also loved to cook, a pastime that started in his fifth year at Yale. His friends in Seattle were often treated to sumptuous feasts, often in costume.

Bob delighted in life and celebrated it every day. He died of AIDS in 1988. When Craig followed him in death in 1994, their estates provided a substantial donation to start the Northwest AIDS Foundation Help Fund to provide direct services to persons with AIDS.

John Harpold remembers:
Thanks Terry Young, for recalling Bob’s travels in Japan and sharing photos.