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In Memory . . . Rev. Frank Robertson (1936-2008)

Posted By Administrator, Thursday, May 13, 2010
It is with a sense of loss that the Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group inform you of the death of the Reverend Frank E. Robertson. He died February 6, 2008 at his home in Plymouth, MA at the age of 71.

Mr. Robertson was born on September 15, 1936 to John and Mildred Robertson in Greenfield, MA. He received a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lowell in 1959 and a M. Div. from The Theological School of St. Lawrence University in 1962 where he was certified in Religious Education. At Colombia University he studied World Religions, specializing in East Indian studies. His interest in world religions persisted throughout Mr. Robertson’s life leading him to participate in the creation of a World Religions curriculum, published in 1987. In 1979 he studied and traveled in India. He participated in a study tour of Japan and in The International Association of Religious Freedom Congress in Tokyo in 1984. 

After being ordained by the First Grace Universalist Church in Lowell, MA, Mr. Robertson served congregations in Barneveld and Shelter Rock, NY, and Paramus, NJ. He served as Minister of Religious Education in Washington, DC, Santa Barbara, CA, and Evanston, IL. In 1998, after serving in Evanston for 12 years, he was honored by the congregation as Minister Emeritus upon his retirement.

Mr. Robertson was a founding member of Interweave, an organization affiliated with the UUA to address the concerns of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) concerns. In doing so, he greatly helped other GLBT persons to claim their identity. Through their efforts, the General Assembly was lobbied to pass resolutions concerning GLBT rights and the UUA Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns was established.

In 2006, Mr. Robertson was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School. In bestowing this degree he was celebrated "as an outstanding Unitarian Universalist minister, as a faithful religious educator, as an exceptional leader in many and sundry public institutions, and finally as a courageous pioneer of human rights.” The Angus H. MacLean Award for excellence in religious education was bestowed on Mr. Robertson in 1998.

Mr. Robertson’s other contributions were many. From 1978 to 1980, Mr. Robertson was a member of the UUA Board of Trustees where he was both soft spoken and effective in lobbying for human rights causes. He also served on the board of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA). He founded and chaired the Unitarian Universalist Religious Education History Group and served on the boards of the St. Lawrence Foundation and the US Chapter of the International Association of Religious Freedom. He was an Elder of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. 

He is survived by his partner of 36 years, Mr. Rick McDonald, of Plymouth, MA, his daughters, Lydia J. Robertson of Brooklyn, NY and Denene Ray and husband, Jeff, of Charlotte, NC. His son, Joel, died in 1993. He also leaves his grandchildren, Charlotte Juergens of Brooklyn, NY, and Emma, Jennifer, and Maddy Ray of Charlotte, NC.

His friend, the Reverend Abhi Janamanchi said of him that "Frank was a mentor, friend, cheer leader, and family member. We will miss his wonderful sense of humor, bad puns, deep dedication to our faith, and universal spirit that embraced all regardless of culture, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation”.

A celebration of The Reverend Frank Robertson’s life will take place on April 19 at 2:00 p.m. at First Parish Church in Plymouth, MA. Memorial gifts may be made to the First Parish Church (memo Frank Robertson Memorial), 19 Town Square, Plymouth, MA 02360-3351 for the establishment of a Celebration Garden in Frank’s name.

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