Robert P. Coe

December 26, 1935 ~ February 5, 2024 (age 88) 88 Years Old

Robert Coe Obituary

Robert P. Coe (December 26, 1935 - February 5, 2024)
Robert (Bob) Coe died after a short illness in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 5, 2024.
He was born to David and Emma Coe on December 26, 1935, in Marlboro, Massachusetts – a
birthday he never liked, due to its proximity to Christmas. He attended Fay and St. Mark’s
schools in nearby Southborough. Through summer camp he became an ardent hiker and tennis
player. Bob earned a B.A. in European history at Princeton University in 1957, and a Master’s in
teaching from Wesleyan University. He began teaching high school social studies, but didn’t take
to it. He then earned a Master’s in history from Columbia University and worked briefly as a
social worker, and finally settled into a 26-year career in the Foreign Service as an economist.
His first post was in Bolivia (1963-65) and then Ghana (1965-67), where he met Jane Meleney,
who was working for the Peace Corps. After determining she was indeed solvent, by buying his
car as he was leaving for the U.S., he proposed. In Jane’s absence, Bob planned the wedding with
his future mother-in-law; the wedding took place at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in October

In 1970 Bob was posted to Santiago, Chile, where both their daughters were born: Cati in 1971
and Cindy in 1973. In 1974-75, he earned a third Master’s in public administration and
economics from Harvard. The family then moved to New Delhi, India, between 1975 and 1979.
His last overseas post was once again in Accra, Ghana, until 1982, when the family moved to
Bethesda, outside Washington, D.C. and Bob worked at the State and Commerce Departments.
After retirement, he volunteered in a wide variety of charitable pursuits: Bethesda Help, the
American Civil Liberties Union, the Nature Conservancy, literacy tutoring, income tax
preparation for low-income families, conflict resolution, and the Bethesda public library. Quite
late in his life, he became a member of River Road Unitarian Universalist Church and enjoyed its
many opportunities for intellectual reflection. 

Starting in 2004, Bob taught 49 courses for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at American
University — primarily on American and European history, but also philosophy, economics, and
science. Some friends felt he had returned to his true calling as a teacher. He always had a stack
of books next to his chair: biographies, histories, science, and literature. He enjoyed swimming
and walking, and he particularly loved mountains and waterfalls.

We say goodbye to a kind and gentle man, whose scholarly grasp of Abraham Lincoln’s role in
U.S. history and the complexities of the Dreyfus Affair (the subject of the last reading group he
led) was balanced by his good humor and desire to win any game he played. His loyalty and
trustworthiness earned him deep and lifelong friendships. 

He is survived by his wife Jane, daughters Cati (Cheryl Shipman) and Cindy (Matt Altman),
grandchildren Lucy and Sam Altman-Coe, brother Peter (Bev) Coe, nephews David (Wayne) and
Justin (Lindsey) Coe, and niece Kirsten (Molly) Kryder Coe. He was predeceased by his parents,
brother John Coe, and sister-in-law Julee Kryder Coe.

Celebrations of life will be held Saturday, March 2 at 2pm at River Road Unitarian Universalist
Church in Bethesda, and in the summer in Massachusetts.

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Celebration of Life
March 2, 2024

2:00 PM
River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation
6301 River Road
Bethesda, MD 20817
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