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Robert John Ellrich

Robert John ELLRICH 1/15/1931 ~ 9/23/2011 Bob was born in Bridgeport, CT to David and Martha Ellrich and grew up in a big old house on US Hwy 1 in Westport, CT. He showed a wide-ranging curiosity from childhood. Bob was happy in the outdoors: he was always an avid swimmer, he spent summers on a farm in PA, where he learned to raise chickens. He nourished a love of music, first while listening with his mother to radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera. He became an accomplished pianist at an early age. A close friend and neighborhood playmate was famed harpsichordist, Igor Kipnis. Bob received a classic Jesuit education at Fairfield College Preparatory School. As a Harvard University undergraduate he concentrated in French and earned his AB "magna cum laude" in 1952. He pursued graduate study at Harvard and received his Ph. D. in Romance Languages and Literatures in 1960. Bob taught French literature at Princeton University (1959-64) before coming to Seattle in 1964 to begin a long tenure in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Washington, where he retired in 1989. He had held visiting appointments at the Universities of North Carolina, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania State, and at Seattle University; as an emeritus professor, he continued to teach at the University of Washington until 1994. Bob's principal area of scholarship and teaching was the French Enlightenment, but he maintained broad interests in French, Italian (especially Dante) and Spanish (Cervantes) literatures. He published a well-regarded study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "Rousseau and His Reader: The Rhetorical Situation of the Major Works," as well as articles and reviews on diverse aspects of Denis Diderot, Rousseau, and others. In retirement he translated Jacques Roget's classic study of "The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought."A measure of Bob's intellectual and personal influence is the close, enduring friendship and esteem of many of his students and colleagues, as well as classmates from his college and graduate school days. Bob had a life-long passion for music, both as a pianist (whose living room for a time barely contained his two Steinway grand pianos) and a patron of opera, symphony, and many other musical performance organizations. He had as well a strong interest in live theater and in art. He was a knowledgeable lover of the cultures of France and Italy (where he had family ties); he lived when he could in both countries and traveled to visit them many times over the years. Partly in consequence he was a fine cook, a lover of good wines, and a lively host. His home was open to his many friends and colleagues for memorable dinner parties and celebrations. Bob took an active interest in his community by doing volunteer work for social service organizations and political campaigns. He was an excellent bridge player and a devotee of the New York Times crossword puzzles. He was an avid gardener and he took a special interest in collecting, and cooking, wild mushrooms from our mountains and around his neighborhood. He had an eye for other collectable objects as well: there never was a yard sale that Bob could pass up; evidence was on view throughout his Wallingford home. Bob is survived by his brother, William Ellrich of North Palm Beach, FL, his cousin, Marion LeCompte of Miramar Beach, FL, and eight nieces and nephews. Cremation arrangements were made by People's Memorial Funeral Cooperative. A memorial service is being planned, but no date has been set. Remembrances in Bob's name may be made to a hospice .
Published in The Seattle Times from Oct. 2 to Oct. 5, 2011
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