Robert R. "Bob" Phelps
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Robert "Bob" R. Phelps Ph.D. K7UW

Robert "Bob" Ralph Phelps passed away on January 4, 2013. Bob was born in California to Ralph and Irene Phelps on March 22, 1926. He is survived by his loving wife of 57 years, Dr. Elaine Phelps. Bob was a world-renowned mathematician known for his contributions to analysis, particularly to functional analy-sis and measure theory. He received his B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1954 and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1958. After two years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and two years on the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley, he joined the UW Mathematics Department in 1962. Bob was a Visiting Professor at the University of Paris in 1969-70 and at the University College London in 1977-78. He was the Chair of the U of W math department from 1978 to 1981, and was named Professor Emeritus when he retired in 1996. Most recently, in January 2013, Bob was named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in recognition of his distinguished contributions to the profession.

With Errett Bishop, Bob proved what is today known as the Bishop-Phelps theorem, one of the most important results in functional analysis. Bob wrote numerous advanced monographs throughout the years, many of which have been republished. His 1966 "Lectures on Choquet Theory" was the first book to explain the theory of integral representations. A revised and expanded version of this book was republished in 2002, and has been translated into several different languages.

Bob's sense of humor was ever-present, even in the serious business of mathematics. A fictional U of W math student, "John Rainwater," who was invented by some U of W grad students in 1952, became a pseudonym used by several well-known mathematicians, including Bob himself. "John Rainwater's" monographs became so numerous that Bob actually wrote Rainwater's "biography" in 2002. Bob was always supportive of women, especially in mathematics, even when that was a less-than popular position. He was also an all-round athlete, achieving many successes in rock climbing, mountaineering, biking and running, and he sometimes used rock climbing metaphors to get a point across in mathematics.

Bob was a resident of Shoreline for fifty years and was dedicated to making his community a better place. He was a long-time member of the Shoreline Historical Museum and joined the Museum's Board of Trustees in 1993, serving for 20 years as a board member, and fulfilling duties as vice president and twice as president. Bob was an excellent Museum ambassador and supporter, and was devoted to making the organization a shining jewel in the community. During Bob's tenure on the board, he also represented the interests of the Museum's partner, the Puget Sound Antique Radio Association, of which he was also a long-time member, serving on the executive committee as vice president from 1998 - 2006. His work for PSARA was characterized by cooperation, kindness and coolness in difficult situations. Bob was young when commercial radio was young. He shared stories of working on merchant ships during World War II as a radio operator, making enough money to pay for a year of college in a few months. It was risky, however, since merchant vessels were sometimes attacked by enemy navy and aircraft. Bob (call sign K7UW) remained interested in amateur radio, was active in the U of W Repeater Group, and was a team leader in the activities of the Shoreline Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and Shoreline Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS).

Our memories of Bob will be treasured forever. A celebration of his life will be held on Sunday, March 24th from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the University of Washington Faculty Club on campus. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Robert R. and Elaine F. Phelps Endowed Fund, University of Washington Mathematics Department:; The Puget Sound Antique Radio Association:; or the Shoreline Historical Museum:

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Seattle Times on Mar. 3, 2013.
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24 entries
March 22, 2018
MARCH 22, 2018

Dearest Bob - It has been 5 years without your living presence in my life, but you remain so very real to me with all your so wonderful qualities, and today, on what would have been your 92nd birthday, I embrace you with all my heart. And, as I used to do, I send my thanks to your mother for having raised this nearly perfect son and husband.

Thank you for our years together, most beloved.

September 13, 2017
Bob My Love - September 13, 1955 - 62 years ago today - was the start of our married journey together - I still remember with amusement the "bridal bouquet" that you gave me - beautiful, fragrant roses, full of thorns!

Our world today is far more grim in ways neither of us could have imagined, but fortunately many of us refuse to accept things as they are, and we work in our small ways toward making things better, and I'm sure you would be with us.

Thank you for helping me to keep on keeping on, my dearest - we taught each other new ways of thinking, and I carry these memories with so much pleasure - and so many tears for your loss - it has not grown easier to be without you - always thinking of you, loving you, dearest Bob.
Elaine Phelps
March 22, 2017
Beloved Bob - It is your birthday today, and were you here with me, I would fill vases with daffodils, and give you a silly present, and we'd be glowing with the fun of life and loving and we'd go somewhere to enjoy this special day which is, as I write, sunny, with sweet-scented breezes and heart-charming bird-song. And, were we together, I would not be forever grieving. Loving you, as always, my dearest friend. 88+1, elaine
Elaine Phelps
March 22, 2016
Beloved Bob Remembering your birthday today you would be 90 today and I'm thinking of all the wonderful joys you sowed for so many, here and around the world, in so many of your different roles wherever you have been, you have brought happiness and I was lucky enough to have shared our ever-growing married love for 57 years [plus six years of pre-marital bliss]. Thank you, dearest one. You are missed every day, in every way.
September 13, 2015
Bob love - On this day, which would have been our 60th wedding anniversary, I'm especially remembering one of our favorite songs - John Denver's Annie's Song. You are in my heart and thoughts every day, missed every day, and always loved. Thank you.

ever yours,
January 4, 2015
Beloved Bob – It's two years ago today since you died, and at that moment the best part of my life ended. Yet I do have endless joyous memories of our shared years together that bring smiles for all the happiness we had, all the travels, the hikes, the quiet times, and most of all our love. Forever loving you, forever grieving, forever thanking you.
Your “secret pal”, Elaine
Elaine Phelps
September 13, 2014
Dearest Bob- This would have been our 59th wedding anniversary today, and you are as deep in my heart as ever. How good to remember our life together, even though these memories come with tears. It could not be otherwise - you are so strongly missed. I continue to thank you many times every day for the endless love we shared.

Elaine Phelps
March 22, 2014
Husband dearest - On your birthday today -
You are in my heart and mind so potently that even though your death has left me deep in grief so much of the time, it's a grief that comes from your having died after SIXTY YEARS of my loving you and being loved by you – and this helps to sustain me because as long as I live that will always be with me and will never change. Thank you, my beloved Bob.
- your t.o.b., c.t. elaine
January 1, 2014
I had Dr. Phelps for Calculus in 1962 and just admired him so much. He was funny to boot and I still recall several of his one-liners. The world needs more like him.
Donald Olson II
September 13, 2013
Celebrating our 56th Anniversary, September, 2011
My ever-beloved Bob - September 13, 1955 was the day we married, and January 4, 2013 was the day you died. Today - September 13, 2013 - I celebrate our love that endured and deepened all through our marriage, that fills my heart every day with loving memories, and brings tears every day because you no longer live that life you enjoyed and gave of yourself to so many in so many ways, and because I miss you with all my being. Thank you, my dearest one, for sharing your life with me.

March 25, 2013
Back in the 1970's, when women's running was in it's infancy, Bob convinced me that I could, indeed, run farther than one mile. He ultimately coached me to some of my fastest 10K's. He was a kind and patient coach and a great cheer leader.
My husband and I enjoyed a friendship with Bob and Elaine that spanned over a quarter of a century. Among the events that we shared together were the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, and many Thanksgiving dinners. Those dinners have never been the same since we moved away from Elaine, the best gravy maker in the universe! It was an honor to know them both for so many years. Bob's passing leaves a void that can never be filled.
Mary and Jordan Miller
March 25, 2013
Mary and I are sorry to have heard of the death of Bob. Unfortunately, we were out of the area and had to miss the memorial. Bob and Elaine were good friends of ours for many years, and we admired Bobs intellectual ability as well as his athletic accomplishments. The world has lost a great man. Mary and Jordan Miller.
Jordan and Mary Miller
March 24, 2013
BOB you were and remain, even after your death, a great leader of the Shoreline ACS. We remember your booming voice with each call to order, your timely meeting, and your playful oversight of the door prize drawings at every monthly meeting. You are missed but your playful leadership spirit lives on as it became a part of the Shoreline ACS culture. Thank you for being there for Shoreline, the Shoreline ACS, and us BOB! As the new Shoreline ACS Team Manager I'm extremely grateful for the roads you paved for those who follow you. Your legacy is great and lasting and a firm foundation on which to continue building the organization.
Alan Coburn
March 23, 2013
I enjoyed the years I spent with Bob in the Shoreline ACS. Bob was a great leader and made the ACS what it is today.
Onehumorus note, on one of our field days we were using Bob's call K7UW and I was operating calling CQ CQ this is K7 Uncle Willy Bob did not appreciate this So I quit using those phonetics Sorry I cannot attend but my health will not let me go
Jon K77WNE Sorenson
March 23, 2013
Bob was a great ham radio mentor to me and contributed so much to his community. He is much missed by his ham radio friends.
Gail C
March 23, 2013
I am sorry I can not attend the service on Sunday. Bob was a mentor and a friend. Our Shoreline "ham radio" group will miss him very much. Rest in peace my friend.
Scott Keeny
March 22, 2013
I am so sorry to miss Bob's memorial service, but I will be in Denver. As I entered retirement, he was an inspiration to me as a quiet and effective community activist. His influence will be felt in Shoreline for decades to come.
Kathy Hall
March 20, 2013
Bob was a great teacher and a great thesis adviser for me. Much more recently, I was extremely honored that Bob was there at a presentation I gave to the UW Math Club in February, 2012! We had a wonderful visit that day.
Richard Fuhr
March 14, 2013
Bob was a great man and a great mathematician who will be much missed. May he rest in peace.
Monty McGovern
March 14, 2013
I wrote a french obitury of Bob for the French Society of Applied and Industrial Mathematics to be published in the next issue of MATAPLI. Its extended english version with Jon Borwein and Brailey Sims could be found in:
Michel Théra
March 12, 2013
Bob was one of the few true gentlemen I have known..
Stephanie Harris
March 8, 2013
Bob always brought joy to my heart!
Carin Chase
March 5, 2013
I used to run with Bob and the gang back when I was a UW student 1973-81. He always encouraged me to push myself, to do my best. I shared his love of climbing too. Rest in peace, Bob
Joanne Gartenberg (Ricketts)
March 3, 2013
I was so sorry to hear of Bob passing away. I was on the board with him at the Shoreline Historical Museum for many years. I am unable to attend his service as we are part of the snowbirds spending time in Palm Springs. I will keep you both in my thoughs and prayers. Sincerely, Margie Olson
Margie Olson
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