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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Robert A. Cleland, 1920-2010

[Below is the obituary for my uncle, Robert A. Cleland. When my father, Burton J. Cleland, died in 1982, Uncle Bob sent checks to my sister Janet and me, to help us with our college expenses. While in college I traveled to Chicago with the U of M Ad Club for a field trip, and met Bob downtown. He was chairing a meeting of activist leaders, and that had a lasting impression on me. More than anyone, Bob persuaded me to leave the Republican Party, which I eventually did around 1990. My most recent trip to Chicago was in July 2008, which I chronicled on this blog. Bob was an inspiration, who led an exemplary life. -- Tom]

Robert A. Cleland, longtime Wilmette resident, 89, died April 11 at home, leaving his wife of 65 years, Jean, nee Rolfing; six children; and three grandchildren. A 1943 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Cleland served as a Naval officer until 1946. In the 1960s he co-founded the Wilmette chapter of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and organized protests against the Vietnam War. After retirement in 1976 he served as director of NOMOR, an arms-control advocacy group, and co-founded the North Suburban Peace Initiative (NSPI). As members of Wilmette's First Congregational Church (UCC) for 54 years, the Clelands urged the church toward positions against the Vietnam War and in support of civil rights, affordable housing, sanctuary for Central American refugees, and nuclear disarmament. In 1986, Cleland was the Democratic candidate for Congress in Illinois's Tenth District, earning the endorsement of the local Pioneer Press newspapers. As an activist, Cleland gave countless presentations at churches, universities, and community forums; organized marches and demonstrations; and regularly composed essays, signature ads, and letters to the editor. Beginning in 1957, "Mr. C." turned the family's backyard into a playground for two generations of neighborhood children, who played on rope swings and flew through the air on an overhead zip line. In winter, tobogganers raced down an iced ramp and across the snowy yard. Cleland enjoyed gardening, singing in the church choir, chopping wood, and writing frequent newsletters to a far-flung network of relatives and friends. A memorial service will take place in May. In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes contributions to NSPI (www.nspipeace.org).
Published in Chicago Tribune on April 13, 2010


At Wed Apr 14, 05:42:00 AM CDT, Blogger AlexisAR said...

Your uncle Bob left a lasting impression. His was certainly a life well-lived.


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