Robert “Bob” Reiser 1941-2023
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Robert “Bob” Reiser, writer, performer and activist, who left the world peacefully at home in Easthampton MA, surrounded by his family on November 4th, 2023. Bob was 82 and in the late stages of dementia, but never lost his sense of humor, love of song, infectious kindness and playful spirit. He was a bright light, and through his passion for social justice, storytelling and teaching he touched the lives of nearly everyone who crossed his path.
Bob was born in Brooklyn, NY on April 22, 1941 to Stefani Reiser and William Reiser. He was a quirky kid with boundless energy and a love for theatrics. Growing up in Flatbush, he spent his early years worshiping the Brooklyn Dodgers while developing a deep love for the city of New York.
After graduating the Barnard School in Riverdale, Bob attended the University of Chicago where he tried on many hats in his pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts; but it was his work studying improv under Del Close at Second City, along with his reactions to the politics of the time, that lit a fire in Bob, ultimately inspiring him to pursue a career as both activist and performer. Bob went on to receive a graduate degree from both the Yale School of Drama in 1963, and an MFA in Playwriting and Screenwriting from NYU in 1965. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s he worked steadily at the Henry Street Theater on the lower east side of NY, directing, writing and performing. During this time, he also formed his own theater groups, The Portable Radio Circus and Free Theater.
Bob took a brief internship working with disabled children at the Pritzker School in Chicago. There he met his future wife, Sandra “Sandy” LeFebve, a nursing student. What started as a close friendship eventually grew into love. On Valentines Day, 1969, the two were wed on the slopes of the Big Vanilla Ski Resort in the Catskills after Bob won an essay contest in the Village Voice. Bob and Sandy eventually moved from Manhattan to Riverdale and had a daughter, Robin, and son, William.
Bob later jumped at a chance to write and perform for the TV show “Fridays,” and relocated the family to Los Angeles. Their time on the west coast, however, was short-lived as LA proved to be too far removed from Bob’s love of New York theater and bagels. Upon moving back to NY, Bob became deeply engaged in the building and launch of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect the Hudson River. It was through this work that Bob met folk singer Pete Seeger, who he considered a kindred spirit. Together they penned two books — “Carry It On” and “Everybody Says Freedom.”
Around this time Bob began a long career as a professor of English at the City University of New York while also developing a passion for writing children’s books, including “P.J.” co-authored with Andrea Balis and “David’s Got His Drum,” co-authored with celebrated jazz drummer Panama Francis.
In his final book, “Story Fever,” Bob describes finding his true calling as a Storyteller. By combining fable, theatrics, wisdom and humor, Bob traveled the world, wowing audiences up to the very end of his life. He believed, “We never get too old to dream. In fact, the older we get, the more vital our dreams become. They are proof that our life has had meaning. Our Stories are our legacy, our last gift to the world. We do not want them to vanish without even a whisper…”
Bob is survived by his wife of 54 years, Sandy, his brother John, his children Robin and William, and grandson Sullivan.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Thursday 11/8 at 1pm, at the Quaker Meeting House in Northampton, MA with a reception to follow. 43 Center Street, Second Floor (wheelchair accessible), Northampton, MA 01060
Williamsburg Funeral Home in Haydenville, MA was entrust with his cremation