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Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence

1930 - 2018
Reverend Dr.  Robert P. Lawrence Obituary
Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence

Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence passed away Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in South Dartmouth following a brief illness. Born in Norwich, Conn., on August 8, 1930, he was the son of the late Mariam (Pitcher)and HerbertLawrence.

A minister for more than six decades, Rev. Lawrence is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Duffy of South Dartmouth; his daughter, Rev. Priscilla Lawrence and her husband Patrick Melampy, of Dunstable; his son, Mark Lawrence and his wife, Stephanie Osbakken, of Austin, Texas; stepson Stephen Johnson and his wife Emily Cathcartof London, England; four granddaughters,Elizabeth and Jane Melampy and Maya and Bryn Lawrence. He was preceded in death by his late wife Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence.

Prior to permanently settling in the Greater Fall River area, Rev. Lawrence worked for the FBI,eventually serving as chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Terminal Island, Calif., and El Reno, Okla. He served as Senior Minister of the United Congregational Church in Little Compton, R.I, from 1960-1972. He also served as Trustee of the Ida Wilbur Smith Trust and ran Wilbur's Store in Little Compton for 19 years.Hebegan the first Pastoral Ministry Department at Charlton Memorial Hospital. In 1985 Rev. Lawrence served the First Congregational Church of Fall River, returning to the church he served in as a student minister. He retired as its Senior Minister and was awarded the title Pastor Emeritus for his years of service.

Following retirement, Rev. Lawrence served as a chaplain for the Cunard Lines as well as the International Olympic Committee, and served as the only U.S. chaplain selected to officiate the 100th year anniversary cruise memorializing the loss of the Titanic. He was chosen by the National Park Service to preside at the Pearl Harbor Memorials for the past three years. He also presided over the interment of surviving USS Arizona crew members who requested the sunken ship as their final resting place. He served as celebrant of hundreds of nuptials and funerals, conferred benedictions at countless community events and maintained robust community involvement on scores of boards until his death. He was Chairman of the Marine Museum at the time it was in danger of closing and initiated its merger with the USS Massachusetts board of directors; he also served as Vice President of the USS Massachusettsboard.He started a board of business and community leaders, which meets monthly, to develop the Fall River waterfront. He was a longtime board member of Family Service Association and the President's Council of Southcoast Hospital Group. He supported many scholarships for young people throughout the community.

Devoted to the Rotary Club of Fall River, Rev. Lawrence was a living example of the credo "Service Above Self," a three-time Paul Harris fellow and the co-chairman of the Rotary Club Foundation Board. The Rotary Club named a Perpetual Scholarship in his honor awarded to a candidate with the most community service. Following the death, in the line of duty, of Fall River Police officer Thomas J. Giunta, Rev. Lawrence initiated a gun buyback effort that eventually took over 3,000 guns off the streets of Fall River. He also helped to establish the Fall River Police Department's first K-9 unit.

An enthusiast of the history of the American West, he traveled extensively and reenacted a portion of the Pony Express ride several times. His passions also included sports and spending time with family.

Among dozens of awards, including the Fall River Chamber of Commerce Roger Valcourt Memorial Outstanding Citizen of the Year award, the Fall River Police Humanitarian Award (named in his honor), the Bristol Community College Distinguished Service Award and the UMass Dartmouth Civic Leadership Award, Rev. Lawrence received a lifetime community service achievement award in 2015 from President Barack Obama. "The President's Call to Service Award" was bestowed upon only a select group of individuals.

Lawrence Hall was dedicated on the campus of UMass Dartmouth in May 2014 to recognize Rev. Lawrence's contributions as a scholar and community activist. The Rev. Dr. Robert P. Lawrence Lecture Series and the Rev. Dr. Robert P. Lawrence Civic Engagement Summit are held annually as part of that honor. In 2007, Rev. Lawrence received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University.Rev. Lawrence graduated from Bloomfield College earning a Bachelor's Degree, cum Laude, a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry Degree from Andover Newton Theological School and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from New York University. He maintained membership in many professional organizations.

LAWRENCE - All services and visitation will be held at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Lawrence Hall, 285 Old Westport Rd., Dartmouth, MA 02747. Visitation will be Friday, Oct. 12, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. A funeral service, celebrated by his daughter, the Rev. Priscilla Lawrence will be held Saturday, Oct. 13, 11 a.m., with burial service to follow at Beech Grove Cemetery, Westport.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the UMass Dartmouth Leduc Center for Civic Engagement, https://giving.umassd.edu/lawrence/.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Potter Funeral Home, Westport.

To sign the online guestbook, please visit www.potterfuneralservice.com.
Published in Nashoba Publishing on Oct. 12, 2018
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