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Robert L. Fletcher

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Robert L. FLETCHER Sept. 30, 1918 ~ Dec. 30, 2011 Professor Robert L. Fletcher, who spent most of his distinguished career teaching at the University of Washington School of Law, died on Friday, December 30, at the age of 93. Known as a gifted and rigorous teacher, he was also a family man, outdoorsman, carpenter, sailor and role model to his four children and eight grandchildren. Fletcher was born in 1918 in Portland, Oregon, to descendents of Oregon Trail pioneers-Minnie May Lieser Fletcher and William Thomas Fletcher, who was the principal of Portland's Grant High School. After his parents' deaths, Bob was raised from the age of eight by his mother's two sisters, pianist Leah Lieser and English teacher Jessie Lieser, on the Lieser family homestead on the Columbia River. He went to Deep Springs College and then to Stanford University, where he graduated first in his class in engineering in 1939. After a brief period of graduate study at MIT, he decided to enter Stanford Law School. It was at Stanford that he met the love of his life, Betty Binns, now Judge Betty Binns Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. They were married on June 13, 1942 at Betty's parents' home near Browns Point, just north of Tacoma. World War II interrupted Bob's education. The Navy tapped him for the lighter-than-air program at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, which developed blimp technology to patrol the coast for enemy submarines. Bob retained a life-long interest in blimps and aviation, becoming a licensed pilot in his sixties. After the war, he completed law school and entered the private practice of law, initially with Chadwick, Chadwick & Mills in Seattle, and then with his father-in-law John Binns in Tacoma. In 1956 he joined the faculty of the UW School of Law, and over his long career there taught constitutional law, property, and wills and estates. He wrote seminal articles on the Rule Against Perpetuities, exploring one of the most complex doctrines of property law. During the 1980s he served as Associate Dean. After mandatory retirement at the age of 70, he taught at UC Hastings College of the Law, the Vermont Law School and Seattle University School of Law. Family was all-important to Bob. Bob spent summers taking his four children into the mountains on backpacking trips, to Europe for a driving and camping adventure, and later to the family retreat in British Columbia, where he built the family cabin. Bob was a talented sailor, initially racing Geary 18 "flatties" on Lake Washington, then graduating to a family cruising sloop, the Sarah. He was a breaker of stereotypes, serving as the family cook and literally breadmaker. When the children were still at home, he baked 10 loaves of bread weekly. His competence-from brick-laying to cooking-was astounding. Bob's devotion to his family made his wife's demanding career possible. The qualities that made him an excellent teacher were as important to his family and friends-a gentle sense of humor, and an unusually retentive mind that educated others through subtle questions. Robert Fletcher is survived by his wife Betty; his children and their spouses-retired professor Susan French (Tom Rowe), Judge William Fletcher (Linda Fletcher), environmentalist Kathy Fletcher (Ken Weiner) and physician Paul Fletcher (Sue Donaldson); by his eight grandchildren and their spouses and partners-Sarah (Patrick), Anne (Grant), Kate (Jonathan), Leah (Dan), Emily (Mike), Caroline (Owen), Laura (James) and Josh (Lily); and by his three great-grandchildren-Tove, Mark and Ellie. A celebration of Bob's life will be held on January 28 at 2 p.m. in the Magnuson-Jackson Room of the University of Washington School of Law, William H. Gates Hall. Contributions in Bob Fletcher's memory may be made to the Robert L. Fletcher Scholarship Fund at the University of Washington School of Law (www.law.washington.edu/alumni/giving/give.aspx search keyword "Robert L. Fletcher") or People For Puget Sound (www.pugetsound.org ).
Published in The Seattle Times on Jan. 4, 2012
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