Epilogue | Robert Anderson

Robert Anderson, 85, always had a passion for singing

CLEARWATER — The contents of his condominium said much about Robert Anderson. For several days now, his two daughters have been sorting through it: boxes of jazz classics, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Billie Holiday, many of them thick 78 RPMs.

They have boxed up the bio­graphies and antique cookbooks he read, and tried to figure out what to do with architectural drafting tools they didn't know he had, and model trains.

For decades, the government bureaucrat and management consultant had kept bric-a-brac such as this in a basement enclave. There was one trace he could not hide — a richly resonant baritone voice.

Mr. Anderson, whose life story bespoke reservoirs of talent, some of them barely tapped, died May 22. He was 85 and suffered from pulmonary blood clots.

Mr. Anderson was born in Southbridge, Mass., but grew up in East Hampton. From age 12 on, he sang at a Congregationalist church, developing a voice that took him around the world.

A member of the Army Air Forces for eight years, he studied foreign affairs at George Washington University, where he sang in the glee club. In 1950, he was one of a select ensemble, the Traveling Troubadours, tapped by Dr. Robert Howe Harmon to entertain troops on remote overseas bases.

He married Josephine Empey in 1951. Mr. Anderson served in the Air Corps and the Army's counter-intelligence reserve, and worked as a management consultant for clients like Eastern Airlines and Bonwit Teller. He also contributed as a policy aide to President Dwight Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" speech; as a foreign affairs officer for the U.S. State Department; as an analyst for the National Archives; as a planning coordinator for Ideal Standard; and as general manager of operations for UNICEF.

Those pursuits made him a living, but did not satisfy a larger hunger for self-expression, said Kathleen Anderson, his daughter and a New York literary agent.

"His passion was singing," said Anderson, 59. "That is the route he should have gone, because he was never meant to be a businessperson. He probably would have done better if had made his money through his art.

"His life is a lesson in the consequences of not pursuing your dreams."

Mr. Anderson and his wife separated the last 20 years of marriage. She died in 2009. In the mid 1990s, he met Edith Jeffries.

They dated, then lived together until her death 12 years later.

His daughter came across a 1947 edition of a literary magazine. It contained two poems by Mr. Anderson.

Her father had never mentioned he wrote poetry, she said.

. Biography

Robert Lee Anderson

Born: July 29, 1926

Died: May 22, 2012

Survivors: Daughters Kathleen and Laura Anderson; stepson Allan Stowell.

Service: 3 p.m. June 23, Bayview Chapel, 2905 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., followed by a Dixieland jazz reception at the chapel's community center.

Robert Anderson, 85, always had a passion for singing 06/01/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 12:08am]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...