Robert Howard Bidwell

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Robert Howard Bidwell MT. PLEASANT - Robert H. Bidwell, who was better known as "Bob", and by his family as "The Great Duff", passed away on Sunday, July 6, 2014, just short of his 95th birthday. Mr. Bidwell, formerly of Falmouth, Cape Cod in Massachusetts, had been a resident of Franke at Seaside in Mt. Pleasant since 2007 with his wife of 30 years, Constance Gorman. Born in 1919 in Winchester, MA to Howard Francis and Helen Leslie Bidwell, Mr. Bidwell's first visit to Falmouth was in 1925 at the age of 6. Influenced strongly by his days of scouting, earning the rank of Eagle Scout, Mr. Bidwell's commitment to leadership and his optimistic can-do spirit led him to Amherst College, playing football and track, and graduating cum laude with honors in economics in 1941. His first job was with Mobil Oil in Buffalo, NY, an assignment which required him to train for 3 months in a service station while earning $30 per week. His mother once said, "Life's hardest corners must be turned alone," but Mr. Bidwell never felt alone and has always credited his family, friends and neighbors with the encouragement to do his best and aim for the top. In 1942, Mr. Bidwell entered the U.S. Marine Corps and as Captain, oversaw a marine detachment of 25 men assigned to maintain order aboard the U.S. Navy transport ship, USS General R. L. Howze, patrolling the Pacific islands of New Guinea, Philippines and Manila, to name a few. He and his men survived three air raids during World War II and much of his courage during this time came from his parents' letters, each of whom wrote Bob every other day so that every day a letter would be received. It was through one of these letters that Bob learned of his father's death at age 67. While an artist never tattooed "Semper Fidelis" across his chest, he truly was one of The Few and The Proud and his flying of the Marine Corps flag outside his home, since this time, was a testament to his loyalty. In 1948, Mr. Bidwell graduated from Columbia Law School in New York City with a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. "I am grateful to the Marine Corps for turning me towards law school. The practice of law is so exciting, you never watch the clock," Mr. Bidwell said. For more than 30 years he worked for Exxon, specializing in antitrust and marketing law, eventually becoming General Counsel for Exxon Chemical in New York City. After a short-lived retirement from Exxon in 1983, he was asked to join Church & Dwight, makers of Arm & Hammer products, as their General Counsel. After his second retirement in 1988, Mr. Bidwell focused his work to community service in Falmouth, Massachusetts serving as President for several not-for-profit organizations including Historic Highfield, Falmouth Associations Concerned with Estuaries and Saltponds, Falmouth Historical Society, Falmouth Historical Commission and the Amherst College Association of Cape Cod. Mr. Bidwell said, "I've always believed that the key to successful leadership in a nonprofit organization is for the leader to actively set an example for the volunteers; that if you show people that you enjoy the work the organization is doing by participating in that work with the volunteers, then they will participate and enjoy the work as well." Throughout high school and college, Mr. Bidwell loved history and it was his passion for Falmouth's history that inspired the community to appreciate Falmouth's native, Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the words to "America The Beautiful." After learning of his mother-in-law's donation of funds to the Falmouth Historical Society for the purchase of the Katharine Lee Bates house, just off the village green, Mr. Bidwell became more personally committed to preserving and promoting Falmouth's historical assets. He assisted in the planning of the public celebration for the 100th anniversary of the writing of "America The Beautiful" and the implementation of the long-term campaign to bring greater recognition to Katherine Lee. Mr. Bidwell was co-producer of the "Battle of Falmouth" at Surf Drive Beach, which received national exposure for Falmouth. Perhaps his proudest accomplishment was the saving of Highfield Hall, an 1878 stick-style Queen Anne design summer mansion, from demolition. Along with several other community members and town officials, Mr. Bidwell knew the importance of restoring this historical treasure and said, "Our history identifies Falmouth as a unique town; we must always preserve this history to better serve our future." In 2003 Historic Highfield held a public reception called "Celebration of Ten Years on the Hill: The Bidwell Decade" in honor of Mr. Bidwell's leadership and dedication to the preservation and restoration of Highfield Hall and its 125 year history. At this reception, he received a Citation from Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney, and Lieutenant Governor, Kerry Healy, recognizing his dedication and commitment as the first President of Historic Highfield. On his 80th birthday, the Selectmen of the Town of Falmouth proclaimed August 26, 1999 as Robert H. Bidwell Day for his leadership and contributions to Falmouth's rich character and economy and was additionally honored by Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci for Mr. Bidwell's many years of dedicated service to the community. As Tom Cahir, former state representative and now Administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority wrote to the Bidwell family after Mr. Bidwell's passing, "I have always had enormous respect for your Dad as he was indeed, a very special man. He was universally respected and the consummate gentleman at all times. I felt very privileged to know him." Mr. Bidwell appreciated music greatly, humming to himself around the home or singing at full voice for those wishing to join in. He greatly enjoyed working in the woods behind his home in East Falmouth, Cape Cod and in his gardens in Mt. Pleasant until age 92. Mr. Bidwell leaves his wife, Constance Gorman of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina; his daughter, Elizabeth Hearne and her husband David Hearne of East Falmouth, Massachusetts; his sons, Robert Bidwell, Jr. of Orlando, Florida, Howard Bidwell and his wife Sharon Bidwell of South Dennis, Massachusetts and Todd Bidwell and his husband Mark LiCalsi of East Falmouth, Massachusetts; Ms. Gorman's four children, Dr. Celia Schulz of Edinburg, Texas, Dr. Emily Schulz of Mesa, Arizona, Edith Schulz-Ogden and her husband John Ogden of Wallingford, Pennsylvania and Daniel Gorman of West Falmouth, Massachusetts. He also leaves his seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild and several nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his former wife, Virginia Moor of East Falmouth, Massachusetts and Vero Beach, Florida and his siblings, Helen Bidwell Harris of San Bernardino, California, Dorothy Bidwell Pilkington of Clinton, New York and Mary Bidwell Ouimette, of East Falmouth, Massachusetts. A memorial service for the Franke at Seaside community will be held in the near future. Visit our guestbook at charleston

Published in Charleston Post & Courier on July 20, 2014
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