Obituary : Robert J. Immelt
The Rev. Robert J. Immelt died at home, January 30, with family at his side, after a long battle with cancer.
Rev. Bob, as he is affectionately known, was born in Columbus, Ohio, July 7, 1921 to Joel and Odessa Marie Immelt. He was a 1940 graduate of North High school in Columbus before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1942.
In 1943, he married his high school sweetheart Betty, and together they settled into married military life in Washington, D.C., before his assignment to the Mediterranean on the destroyer U.S.S. Philadelphia. There he proudly served his country in World War II during the invasion and ensuing battle at Anzio Beach, Italy.
After serving in military service, Rev. Bob attended his beloved Ohio State University (never missed a Script Ohio performance!) on the G.I. Bill, graduating with a B.A. degree in 1949. Moving on to Drew University, in Madison, N.J., he enrolled in Seminary, where he graduated with an M.A. in Divinity in 1952.
Rev. Bob formally served as United Methodist Church clergy for over 40 years, although ministering to people informally was something he never stopped doing. Starting with a 4-charge church assignment in the rural counties of Central Ohio, his career included assignments in Millersburg, Massillion, and Mentor, Ohio, before being promoted to District Superintendent for the Steubenville District in Steubenville, Ohio. As a D.S., he was a kind, easygoing leader, known as a "minister who ministered to ministers." An innovative administrator, Rev. Bob thrived on creating opportunities for renewal and enrichment for his charges, telling them, "You owe it to yourself!" A leader by example, he had a successful career in the ministry, but also had a rich life outside the church, with family, traveling, sailing, etc. He retired from the church in 1986.
When most would be looking toward a life of leisure in retirement, Rev. Bob found new challenges in ministering to others in a slightly different capacity. Combining a great love for travel with his faith, he and wife Betty became regional directors for Educational Opportunities, a Florida-based religious travel company, later serving as members of the E.O. Staff in Jerusalem, Cairo, and the United Kingdom, among other assignments.
Over a period of 10-plus years, the couple shepherded church groups through Israel, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, Switzerland, Italy, France, Austria and Germany, Australia, New Zealand and China and many, many cruises from Alaska to the Caribbean. By far, his favorite trip was to Israel (22 times!), where he could bring the biblical teachings of his Christian faith to life for others.
Because he could immerse himself in Middle East culture, he entered into an easy friendship with local E.O. workers and hotel staff, coming to know and understand what a wonderful opportunity peace could be in the region. A passionate proponent of peace, Rev. Bob held many workshops and talks on the Middle East peace process over the years, hoping to inspire others to embrace the that process, most recently for the Martha's Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association, where he had summered for over 50 years.
Rev. Bob and family owned a cottage alongside many other young ministers' families in the summer Camp-Meeting community in Oak Bluffs, from 1955 to 1997, when they moved to a winterized house in Edgartown. He was an active and vocal participant on the Board of Directors and as guest minister during the Association's summer program. Frequently seen with a paint brush in hand, his month's vacation was always spent on the Vineyard, either working on "projects" at the cottage or out on the water in one of the many sailboats he built by hand or on the one he and his son Jay sailed all the way from Montreal to Martha's Vineyard after taking ownership.
Always a sailor, and even though mornings were reserved for chores, afternoons were given to the wind. In Rev. Bob's opinion, there was never a time when a sail in the boat didn't cure what ailed you. Summer job got you down? Well then, a sail would do you good. Lost love and didn't know what to do? Well then, a sail would do you good. Never been on a boat? Well then, a SAIL would do you good! Whatever the problem, a sail would allow the mind to rest, the soul to recharge and the heart to find an answer.
In addition to sailing, Rev. Bob's interests were numerous. He fished many an afternoon with his sons and grandchildren. He carved beautiful whales out of wood. He took award-winning photography of nature. A lifelong member of the Boy Scouts of America, he hiked and camped and led Boy Scout expeditions to Philmont, N.M. He was also a 32nd degree member of The Masons as well as The Scottish Rite, The Rotary Club, American Legion, and The United Methodist Men's Breakfast Club on Martha's Vineyard.
He leaves behind his wife of 65 years, Betty Frye Immelt; son Jay Immelt and wife Helen and children Johanna and family, and Justin, all of Seattle; daughter Julie Immelt Wheeler and husband Geoff and son Andrew of Villa Hills, Ky., and Oak Bluffs; daughter-in-law Carol Immelt of Hamilton, Ohio, and Oak Bluffs, her daughters Alyssa Miller and family, of Hamilton, Stephanie Immelt, of Edgartown and Julie Immelt, of Vineyard Haven; his sister Rose Immelt of Tyler, Texas; sister Ruth Immelt Anderson, of Oak Bluffs; and brother Joseph Immelt and wife Donna of Cincinnati; and many great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends. His son Mark Immelt predeceased him in 2007.
His kind heart, curious nature, happy disposition, warm smile, and twinkling eyes will be sorely missed and fondly remembered. He had a calm, cool way of doing his work, looking at life, having fun and taking pride in his family. He never missed a football practice, dance recital, soccer game, or romp around the living room floor playing "horsy" with his children and grandchildren. He was the first in his family to graduate from college and the first in the county to drive a convertible. He was cool, before cool was in, and those who had the lucky chance of knowing him will be forever influenced by his wit, his charm, his deep devotion to his faith, and his quiet and certain attitude of spirit even at the end of his days.
A celebration of fife at Trinity United Methodist Church in Oak Bluffs, and a private burial at Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Bluffs was held on February 4.
Memorial gifts in Rev. Bob's name may be made to: The Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association -The Tabernacle Restoration Fund, P.O. Box 1176, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557; Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557; or the United Methodist Cooperative Ministry of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 796, Chilmark, MA 02535.
A kind and faithful servant of God, Rev. Bob will long live on in the lives of his many friends and beloved family continuing his service to others.