Robert L. West

WestRobert L. West, 87, on July 8, 2017, at home in LaGrangeville, N.Y., with his family close by. Bob was born on September 7, 1929, in Peekskill, N.Y., to Maude Townsend and Robert West. He graduated from Peekskill High School, and after his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Union College (Schenectady) in 1951, he worked for IBM, developing many early computer applications, including those for medical and aeronautical use. Soon after graduation he met and married Suzanne Palmer, from Big Rapids, Mich. The family attended Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Meeting for a number of years in the late 1960s. Although he and his family lived mostly in the Hudson Valley, they lived for a while in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., where he completed coursework for a doctorate. He and Sue later divorced.

Bob was an outdoorsman who loved to hike, backpack, and canoe in his younger days. When he became a father, he adapted these passions to family life and devoted more time to pursuits closer to home. He passed many a peaceful afternoon fishing with his father, both in New York and later during memorable trips to Canada, and camped and cycled with his family.

Nettie Ruland, a musician and teacher of violin and piano, entered and blessed his life in 1981, commencing a nearly 36-year-long friendship and marriage. They lived primarily in LaGrangeville, but spent considerable—and cherished—time at their second home in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. A shared and deep love of classical music; a commitment to Bulls Head-Oswego Meeting in Clinton Corners, N.Y., where they married, worshiped, and served for decades; an interest in seeing the world; and delight in their families joined them over the long and happy course of their life together. They gave both time and resources to causes that mattered to them, volunteering with a Quaker group at Green Haven Correctional Facility for many years and donating regularly and generously to organizations they believed could contribute to a more compassionate and just world.

Retiring from IBM in 1991, Bob was an avid and talented photographer, who taught the subject as well as practicing it. The arts gave meaning to his life, and he gave much of his life to them. A voracious reader with a wide-ranging library, he was also an opera and ballet enthusiast, serving as the president of the board of directors of the Poughkeepsie Ballet Theater for several years and as the company’s official photographer.

Bob is survived by his wife, Nettie Ruland West; his three daughters, Laurel West, Katie West, and Elizabeth West; Nettie’s three children, Russ Langwig, John Langwig, and Christie Guevin; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and a younger brother, Jim West. Donations in Bob’s honor can be made to the International Rescue Committee (

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