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In Memory . . . Robert Sumner Wolley (1927-2009)

Posted By Jessica Cambio, Thursday, May 13, 2010

It is with a sense of loss that the Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group informs you of the death of the Reverend Robert Sumner Wolley. He died peacefully on December 25, 2009. He was 82 years old.

Rev. Wolley was born on July 23, 1927, in Medford, Massachusetts to Sumner and Gladys Wolley. He spent most of his boyhood summers on Cape Cod in Wellfleet. He attended Tufts University but his education was interrupted by a paralyzing back injury. Told he might never walk again, he not only walked but had brief careers in baseball and hockey. He returned to school at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in ministry.

Rev. Wolley served churches in Winchester, MA; Henderson, NY; Parishville, NY; and Hopkinton, NY, before his graduation from St. Lawrence. After graduation, he was called to the Universalist Church in Swampscott, MA, where he was ordained in 1951. The Swampscott church later merged with the First Universalist Parish of Lynn, MA. In 1954, he was called to the Second Universalist Church in South Weymouth, MA, and served there for four years until being recruited for the position of Director of Extension for the Universalist Church of America. He held this position for three years until the Unitarian and Universalist merger, then for eight additional years for the UUA. During his years as Universalist Extension Director, he also served as Superintendent to churches in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec.

Rev. Wolley was active in denominational affairs. He served as member of the Joint Interim Commission, Council of Liberal Churches; secretary of the Joint Merger Commission; vice-president of the Universalist Historical Society and editor of its journal; director of Young Adult Conference, Ferry Beach, Maine; and many other positions.

Devoting his later years to writing, he published an adventure book trilogy, Death of the Jaguar; a fictional account of his early childhood, The Pranks an' Enlightenment of Frank an' Me; and a series of books about concerns of aging. These included Seniors in Love: A Second Chance for Single, Divorced, and Widowed Seniors and The Greatest Companion: Reflections on Life, Love, and Marriage After Sixty. His final book, Aging and Its Discontents: Finding Meaning in Your Senior Years, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2010. The books on aging were the books of which he was most proud.

Rev. Wolley is survived by his children, Cheryl Gartland, her husband, Dewey, and their daughter, Carolyn, of Brooklyn, NY; Andrea Wolley of Boston, MA; and Charles Wolley, his wife, Lauren, and their son, Jason, of Melbourne, Australia and Punta Gorda, FL. He also leaves his brother Philip Wolley of Searsport, ME. His wife, Marilyn, died in 1995. A private memorial service is planned.

Memorial contributions may be made in Rev. Wolley’s name to the Salvation Army, 615 Slaters Lane, P.O. Box 269, Alexandria, VA 22313 or the World Wildlife Fund, 1250 Twenty-Fourth Street, NW, P.O. Box 97180, Washington, DC 20090-7180.

Please send notes of condolence to Cheryl Gartland, 413 Caton Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11218.

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