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Memorials: Boulder Friends Meeting

Robert Atchley

Date of birth

Sept. 18, 1939

Date of death

Nov. 13, 2018


Boulder Friends Meeting

Memorial minute

Bob loved the experience of aliveness. He expressed this in many ways--a ready smile, making music, writing, a sweet serve, skiing, sailing, and listening to mountain streams. He loved hanging out with his wife Sheila, his kids-- Melissa and Chris Atchley and Chris Miller, and his four grandchildren, Sydney, Hope, Sophia and Benjamin. He cherished his friends and loved good conversation. Bob married Sue Hyser in 1961 and they had two children, Christopher Atchley and Melissa Atchley. He married Sheila J. Miller in 1976; she had a son, Christopher Miller (wife, Rachel). 

Bob graduated with a dual major in sociology and psychology from Miami University in 1961 and went on to complete his Ph.D. in Sociology from American University in 1965. He returned to Miami University as a professor in 1966 and was the director of the Scripps Gerontology Center for 25 years. He was named Distinguished Professor of Gerontology in 1986 and retired in 1998. He then moved to Boulder, Colorado and chaired the Gerontology program at Naropa University for 7 years. 

More than a million people got their introduction to social gerontology by reading his textbook Social Forces and Aging, which went through ten editions from 1972 to 2004. His more specialized books Continuity and Adaptation in Aging and Spirituality and Aging were also widely read. In all, he wrote more than 25 books. 

Bob never shied away from responsibility. He served as President of the 10,000-member American Society on Aging from 1988-1990 and held positions in various other national professional organizations in social gerontology. He also served on the boards of several national, state and local philanthropic organizations. He was well-loved for his work with areas of positive aging, and Sage-ing International. 

Bob had a lifelong interest in singing. He began writing songs in the 1970s. After retiring from academia he began studying and practicing to be a professional-grade singer-songwriter. He published more than forty original songs and performed for a variety of audiences mostly around Boulder and at national conferences. He was proud of his four music CDs. 

Bob's spiritual journey was profoundly influenced by two visits to India in 1978 and 1979 (with wife Sheila) to be with the Indian sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, a teacher of existential spirituality. He later dedicated himself to encouraging and supporting others on their spiritual journeys. He published entries on spirituality for three encyclopedias. 

Bob became a convinced Quaker, joining Oxford (Ohio) Meeting in 1996; he transferred his membership to Boulder Meeting in 1999. At Boulder Meeting he served in many capacities and on many committees: he served as Treasurer from 2015-2017; at various times he convened Program, Service, and Finance committees, and served on Ministry and Counsel, Grief and Bereavement, Higher Education Fund, Toward Right Relationship Oversight, and Fellowship committees. Bob was an active participant in Quaker studies groups, where his wisdom and sense of humor was treasured. He shared multiple installments of his Spiritual Journey with Friends. Just a few short weeks before his death Bob demonstrated beautifully how singing and song-writing were expressions of his spiritual nature by strumming accompaniment on his guitar and singing for Friends from the songs he wrote. 

Bob and his wife Sheila shared an astounding journey. Sheila was Bob's guiding light, closest friend, and love-song muse. Their life together was an ongoing testimony to the many possible levels of loving, the power of trust and tenderness, and the rewards of staying spiritually connected. 

A memorial Meeting for Remembrance was held at Boulder Friends Meeting on January 26, 2019. We will miss him deeply.