Robert Francis Meachum, age 57, passed away on January 1, 2013, at Providence Hospital in Anchorage due to complications of a stroke and heart attack.
Rob was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 27, 1955, to Dr. Floyd T. Meachum and Mrs. Bobette Meachum. He grew up in Detroit and enjoyed spending many of his summers at Camp Westminster in Michigan. As a camper and camp counselor he gained his love of the outdoors and love of working with children. He enjoyed fishing on the Detroit River for Bass, but in later years he felt they were way too small and was always on the hunt for King Salmon or Halibut. Rob graduated from Howe Military Middle School in 1969 and Detroit Country Day High School in 1973 and entered the University of Michigan.
At the university, he devoted much of his time to the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily, where he worked his way up to becoming co-editor in chief. He was known for being a meticulous editor, a passionate newsman and a thoughtful, caring leader. As a reporting intern for the Kansas City Star, he helped cover the 1976 presidential election while the city hosted the Republican National convention. After graduating, Rob worked at the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida. He soon realized he wanted to have a more direct impact on helping people, and decided to pursue his goal with a career in law. He earned his law degree from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. While a law student, Rob was awarded an internship at the public defender's office in Anchorage. Over the summer, he fell in love with Alaska and Freda Westman. He started working in Juneau in 1981 and has been with Freda ever since.
Rob worked as an assistant public defender in Juneau from 1986 until January 2012, when he transferred to the Alaska's Dillingham public defender office.
In recent years he worked primarily with Child-in-Need-of-Aid cases and with delinquency cases. He was dedicated to children and young people. He was extremely generous hearted and offered himself fully to his clients and family. He leaves many friends and colleagues who are saddened by his loss.
Rob was recognized by his public defender peers with the 2006 David B. Snyder award for excellence by public defenders; and in May 2009 with the Alaska Bar Association Board of Governors Professionalism Award in recognition of exemplary conduct in his association with the public, his colleagues and the legal community; and he was a nominee to the Superior Court bench for Juneau in 2007.
Quinlan Steiner, head of the Public Defender Agency, wrote in an email that "his passing is a great loss to the legal community in Alaska." As a Public Defender for thirty years, Steiner said "Rob was widely admired for his commitment to clients and his dignified, approachable manner."
"He was a very dignified and compassionate man, represented his clients who frequently had no other advocates, vigorously represented them, but at the same time dealt with everybody involved in the system respectfully," Deputy Public Defender of the Criminal Division Douglas Moody said. "It's a great loss to the agency and to the legal community as a whole."
Rob was a 26-year survivor of cancer and over the years he reached out with his big heart and assisted family, friends and others to empower them with the ability to get educated about cancer and cancer treatment. He was an inspiration and role model to others with his cancer survivorship and strived to live a healthy life despite the loss of his leg from cancer and the damage to his heart from cancer treatment.
Rob is survived by his wife Freda Westman, daughters Cecelia Westman, Hunter and Dabney Meachum, son Gabriel Meachum, grandson Talib Westman, parents Dr. Floyd T Meachum and Mrs. Bobette Meachum, brother David (Linda) Meachum, brother Floyd Anthony (Beth) Meachum, sister Cheryl (Melvin) Meachum, sister Nancy (Chris) Provan, sister Tracey Finney, and sister Heidi (Gerald) Washington. He is also survived by numerous extended family of the Meachum and Ward Westman families.
A service for family and friends will be held at Northern Light United Church on Tuesday, January 8 at 3 p.m. The service will be live-streamed at: htps://new.livestream.com/nluchurchjuneau. Refreshments will be served following the service.
Contributions can be made to the
, the Glory Hole, the Glacier Swim Club or to a college fund for the benefit of Rob's daughters at Wells Fargo.
Published in The Juneau Empire on Jan. 8, 2013