Bob Edgerton

Date of Birth

May 10th, 1935

Date of Death

November 27th, 2020

Memorial Meeting

University Friends Meeting

Minute

Robert (Bob) Frank Edgerton, was born on May 10, 1935 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and  was raised in Belmont, MA. He was the youngest of the three children of Harold Eugene  Edgerton and Esther May Garrett Edgerton.  

Harold and Esther both grew up in Aurora, NE, and graduated from college at the University of  Nebraska-Lincoln. Harold attended graduate school at MIT, where he later became a renowned  faculty member in the Electrical Engineering Department. Esther followed, attending a year at  the Boston Conservatory, and they were married in the area. Bob spent some of his childhood  summers in his parents’ hometown and family farm, in Aurora, NE. Bob loved the farm, often  recalling the smell of the barn, as well as detasseling corn, which was a big challenge as the  corn silk reached above his young body. He also had fond memories of two summers he spent on  Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso as an assistant to his father, who designed underwater cameras  and lighting as well as sonar equipment for Cousteau’s explorations. Bob learned to scuba dive,  did some underwater photography, and had wonderful stories of life on the ship and his  friendships with the French sailors. They nicknamed his father “Papa Flash” and called Bob  “Petit Flash.” 

Bob first learned about Quakers as a young teenager, when his older sister had undertaken a  project to visit different houses of worship and would tell the family what she learned about each  one. What she related about the Quakers intrigued him, so he visited a meeting there in  Cambridge. It stuck, and he occasionally attended Cambridge Meeting. While studying at the  University of Rochester (in Rochester, NY), Bob attended a small meeting hosted in the living  room of a private home near campus.  

In his junior year, Bob met Elizabeth Lowe at the University of Rochester while she was a  freshman. She also had become drawn to Quakers, which was one of the things they had in  common. At the time, Bob was teaching himself to play the alto recorder using a book recently  published by Maria von Trapp (before “The Sound of Music” fame). He wrote to the family asking for a job teaching recorder in the summers at the music camp they had established in  Vermont. They instead offered him a job leading their dishwashing crew, which he enthusiastically accepted, in addition to tending the wood stoves. They embraced him as a  family member, including him on their days off to make apple strudel, sing and play music and  go on family outings. 

After Elizabeth graduated they were married in her parents’ apartment in New York City, in a  Quaker-inspired gathering, clerked by a recorded minister who had driven down from  Poughkeepsie. They stayed in Rochester as Bob completed a PhD in Physics while being paid  as a teaching assistant. They both became members of Rochester Friends Meeting, For about a  year they were live-in caretakers of the beautiful Friends Meeting House (previously the  Episcopal Church parsonage), until close to the birth of their first child, Eric, in December 1961. 

In 1963, they moved to Minnesota for Bob to take a job teaching physics at Carleton College,  where they “inherited” the informal campus Quaker Meeting from the Quaker faculty couple who had just left. It was a warm, intimate group in their home, fulfilling the requirement for students  to attend some religious service. Second child, Nina, was born there in June of 1965. 

Bob and Elizabeth moved their family a few more times: to Ithaca, NY, where their third child,  Sylvia, was born in April 1968; to Maine, where they attended Orono Friends Meeting; and  finally, to Pontiac, MI, where they stayed for 19 years and attended Birmingham Friends  Meeting. Bob taught physics at The Roeper School (a private school for “gifted” children),  followed by jobs in public schools and colleges. For a few years he was employed at Energy  Conversion Devices (ECD) where he researched innovative methods for producing thin-film  photovoltaic solar cells. Bob was a loving and attentive father, introducing his children to  outdoor activities including bicycling, backpacking, wilderness canoe trips, and the joy of  discovering natural phenomena. 

Late in Bob’s career, Bob and Elizabeth moved to Contra Costa County, CA, where Bob  attended Walnut Creek Friends Church. Although he didn’t connect as much with some aspects  of Evangelical, church-style Quakerism, he loved the people and how they cared for each other,  and he greatly appreciated their young lay pastor. 

Bob retired in 1995, after which he and Elizabeth moved to Seattle, in part to be near their son  Eric and his family. Bob was active in a rowing club, bicycling, and playing music. Bob hadn’t  started learning to play the cello until his early fifties but, like other musical instruments he  played (including the saxophone, recorders and banjo), learned very quickly. He didn’t generally  perform in public, but just enjoyed the experience of playing music with other people and so  would gather small groups of friends to play chamber music in their home. Often they would  gather on Sunday mornings, and as a result he was not active in any Quaker meeting for  several years after moving to Seattle. 

Bob started attending University Friends Meeting regularly in 2005, and in 2007 transferred his  membership to UFM from Rochester Friends Meeting. In January 2008, Bob answered a call  from the Education Committee that was asking for more help. For several years thereafter, Bob  served as a 2nd adult for First Day School. Bob also regularly attended the Adult Religious  Education hour, enjoying the wide-ranging topics and discussions. He volunteered for several  visiting and welcoming committees for members who were joining, transferring, or sojourning,  and he was a frequent and willing volunteer for other spot work, such as ComNomNomCom,  Donations Committee, and the annual State of the Meeting report.  

Bob became involved with an unarmed peacekeeping organization called Nonviolent  Peaceforce. In 2009 he served as a conference host for the annual meeting of their Washington  and Oregon chapters, and in June 2010 he gave a talk about the organization at ARE. As a  supporter, he joined a group that went to Sri Lanka to observe and experience the work of NP,  providing trained, professional unarmed protection in conflict areas. 

Bob was very visually oriented, and often interested in the art exhibits in the UFM Social Hall.

He often saw beauty in the world around him, from the geometric patterns of hubcaps to the  rainbows refracted from semiconductor films on scraps of material at his workplace, which he  sometimes collected and framed. 

Bob, along with Charlie Janeway, provided friendship and support to JoJo Tran, and were the  Friends who originally connected JoJo with UFM. In June of 2015, Bob joined the Worship &  Ministry Committee, which he served on until his resignation in December 2016 due to a decline  in health.