Robert “Bob” Dupre was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the oldest child of Dr. Guyon G. and Cecile (Forest) Dupre, who inspired his lifelong devotion to God, science, farflung travel, and the ocean. His family summered in Point Judith, where Bob and his sister Louise (Cunningham) were lifeguards and deep-ocean swimmers. Their Course One-Two-Zero swims were legendary—a half mile out to the rock off Scarborough Beach, take a right toward the lighthouse, and keep going.
His brother, Paul, however, was his true and fearless partner in crime, especially after the family moved west to Pacific Palisades. Teenagers and old enough (almost) to drive, they cooked up daring schemes, the telling of which has outlived them both. In California, Bob realized that skinny brainiacs never got the girl, so he began to lift weights with the body builders at Muscle Beach, at first to build muscle and then competitively. When he was 66, after winning a national weight-lifting championship, he deflected praise, saying his chances got better every year since the competition was dying. Paul, Louise, and their youngest brother, Norman, predeceased him.
The luckiest day of his life was June 24, 1949, when he met Dolores Albanese at the outdoor movies at Adams at the corner of Angel and Ocean roads in Point Judith. They were part of a large circle of lifelong friends, all of them fans of the beach, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and dancing. Bob and Dolores courted for five years, driving between Providence College and Salve Regina, until (at last!) they were married at St. Ann’s Church in Providence on October 16, 1954.
Their first dance was to “Forever and Ever,” a good omen for a marriage that would endure for sixty-five years. Its longevity was thanks to Dolores’ unwavering loyalty, belief in family, and gift for friendship. But the bedrock of their marriage was their shared, steadfast faith. For better or worse, they lived their vows and their faith.
Bob enjoyed enormous helpings of love, support and delicious Italian food from Dolores’ family—her parents, Etta and Ben Albanese; her sister Judy (Gartsu); her brother Ben; and their spouses, Leo and Marlene; along with her many cousins in Rhode Island and Maine. Bob fit right in.
At a young age, he decided, unequivocally, that he would be a chemist. He graduated from Providence College, an organic chemist and an avid Friars fan. He was precise, with distances, measurements, dates, and temperatures. He knew how to take things apart—and put them back together.
He taught his five children—Cynthia, Judith, B.J., Susan and Peter—the finer points of Peanuts, making snowballs, riding waves, cleaning paint brushes, and, and after casting child-size barbells from concrete-filled food cans, weight lifting. He regaled his pint-sized audience with chemistry “magic shows.” He’d line up “the troops” every morning, by height, for a kiss before going to work. He’d read to us, every night, all five kids pig-piled around him. Years later, when asked what he read, he said, matter-of-factly, “The encyclopedia.”
He was a scientist, enthralled by the ordering of the universe, natural law, and Mother Nature in all her manifestations, whether tidal bores, solar eclipses, nuclear bombs (he built a fall-out shelter in the backyard of Lennon Street, one of his more memorable projects), and, always, hurricanes, particularly the one that hit in 1938. How appropriate he has left in the company of Dorian.
An early environmentalist, he worked for much of his career to curb chemical pollution on behalf of Ciba-Geigy, the Swiss pharmaceutical firm. He retired from chemistry to become a full-time real estate investor and builder, ably assisted by his son Peter and inspiring all his children, and most of his grandchildren, to invest in old neighborhoods and improve them. He sensed when a building, or a person, just needed a leg up—and he gave it. He lived by that old Yankee saw—“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”—not because he was parsimonious (in fact, he could be quite extravagant, ask Dolores) but because he knew and valued the energy and resources it took to make things.
He was wholehearted, approaching life with courage, persistence, faith, optimism, and a sense of adventure. Anything was possible. There was a right way and a wrong way. And usually there were written instructions about getting it right! He was eloquent, quick to teach, quick to laugh, and he knew when to stop and gaze in wonder.
He instilled these values in his children, and through them, his eight grandchildren— Genevieve, Zepheryn, Chandler and Annie Dupre, Brendan and Emmet Gaffney, and Robert and Lily Wilson. He was overjoyed to hold his first great-granddaughter, Serena Lis.
He was a man in full. He lived life on his own terms, feared God and Nature, loved his country and helped countless newcomers make it their home too, built a business, reveled in his family and lifelong friendships, and, until recently, enjoyed robust good health. As one of his grandsons said, “What a life! He checked all the boxes.” He really did.
Dad fully expected to live to be 120. But all of us who loved him, and will miss him so much, know that he will live on forever.
Funeral Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 8:45am from the NARDOLILLO FUNERAL HOME & Crematory – SOUTH COUNTY CHAPEL, 1111 Boston Neck Road (Rt. 1A), Narragansett, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10am at St. Mary Star of the Sea, 864 Point Judith Road, Narragansett. Burial will follow in St. Francis Cemetery, Wakefield. Visiting hours Monday 5-8pm. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to McAuley Ministries or Hope Hospice & Palliative Care.
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