Robert (Bob) Cashman Elliott
Friend, teacher, father, brother, grandfather and husband, under a full moon, guided by Leo and under the watchful gaze of Castor and Pollux, ascended to the heavens on March 17, 2022 at the age of 85.
Bob, a resident of Leelanau County and Holland, Michigan, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his two loving children and their spouses.
He was born on February 6, 1937, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, to Virgil and Geneva Elliott. His family moved around in Bob’s early years, living in Pennsylvania and Tennessee before settling in Michigan in 1949. Throughout these years, Bob and his family spent many summers gathering with friends on the shore of Lake Avalon near Hillman, Michigan, eventually building a cottage on the lake for all to enjoy for generations to come. Bob attended East Lansing High School where he was a member of the track team, and served as both Class President and President of Student Council while courting his first love, Ann Fee. Bob graduated from high school in 1955.
Bob attended Michigan State University (GO GREEN!) where he was a sprinter and long jumper on the track team (GO WHITE!). He graduated in 1959 with a degree in Natural Science Education and married his high school sweetheart, Ann, on August 22 of that year.
Bob and Ann moved to Traverse City, Michigan, where Bob taught high school science and coached the track team. They started a family and had two children, Rob and Gwen. In 1964, Bob and his young family moved to Ithaca, New York, where he studied astronomy at Cornell University and obtained a Master of Science in Teaching degree. Following graduation, Bob accepted an offer from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire (UWEC) to join the faculty of the Physics and Astronomy Department. He served as Planetarium Director, taught classes and spent many evenings at observatories on campus and at Beaver Creek Reserve. In 1969, Bob took a sabbatical, traveling with his family to Tucson, Arizona, where he worked with astronomers from the University of Arizona doing research at the Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon. Bob was a charter member of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association and served as president for two years. Bob was instrumental in obtaining a telescope and raising funds to build an observatory at Beaver Creek Reserve for all to enjoy. In 1985, Bob and Ann moved from Eau Claire to a house perched above the Eau Claire River just outside of Fall Creek, Wisconsin. Bob retired from the University in 1996. In retirement Bob continued to actively follow his passion for astronomy. He volunteered at Beaver Creek Reserve, led groups of star gazers on clear nights, was a founding member and active in the Chippewa Valley Astronomical Society; and tracked asteroids for NASA’s Minor Planet Center.
In 2005, Bob and Ann moved back to Michigan, to Ann’s family cottage which they had renovated and expanded to be their year-round home. Bob lost Ann to cancer in 2006 after 47 years of marriage, leaving retirement dreams unrealized. Bob spent much of that first year visiting friends and family, staying with grandchildren and watching the sunsets at the cottage. In the Spring of 2007 Bob reconnected with another high school classmate who had also recently lost her spouse. Bob and Ruth (Marrison) Wiersma communicated frequently over the next several months, Ruth visited the cottage, and on September 29, 2007, Bob and Ruth were married and enjoyed happy times over the next 14 years splitting their time between Leelanau County and Holland.
In addition to astronomy, Bob enjoyed spending time with family at the cottage, volunteering with outdoor conservation and education groups, sailing, birding and traveling. His trips took him to most of the United States as well as Japan, the Philippines, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, the Bahamas, Costa Rica and France. Many of his trips with family and friends involved visiting observatories and chasing comets and solar eclipses. He was a lifelong model train enthusiast, building intricate layouts and sharing this passion with his children and grandchildren. Bob also had a love for music. He sang in the church choir at the First Presbyterian Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and joined Ruth in the choirs at the Leland United Methodist Church and 2nd Reformed Church in Zeeland.
Bob was proceeded in death by his first wife Ann. He is survived by his second wife Ruth, his sister Donna Claire (John) Carr, his son Robert (Colleen) Elliott and daughter Gwen (Ronald) Shavalier; three grandchildren, Megan Shavalier, Tess Shavalier (Kevin) and Erik Elliott; and Ruth’s children Andrew, David, Elisabeth, Rebecca and Christopher and their families.
Earth was a better place with him on it and we are better people for knowing him. He will be sorely missed but we are excited for him as he continues his trek to unravel the mystery of the cosmos.
A graveside celebration of Bob's life is planned for August 2, 2022 at 1pm at Hillman Rust Cemetery in Hillman Michigan. Memorial contributions may be made to Beaver Creek Reserve in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, or the Leelanau Conservancy.