In Memory: Feb. 26

From Strunk Funeral Homes & Crematory

Robert (Bob) Walter Samuels, 91, Vero Beach

December 21, 1929 – February 16, 2021

Robert (Bob) Walter Samuels, a resident of Vero Beach, FL and North Falmouth, MA passed away peacefully on February 16, 2021 at age 91 in his Vero Beach home.

Bob was predeceased by his wife Audrey Jane (Fitzgerald) Samuels, his parents Alexander and Henrietta and older brothers Jim and Tom. Bob and his brothers were first generation Americans.  Their father emigrated from Paramaribo, Suriname at age 19, while his mother came from Germany as a young child.

The family lived in Brooklyn where Bob became a lifelong fan of baseball, basketball and all sports.  When Bob was 12 years old the family to moved to Forest Hills, Queens, New York where Bob met his future wife, Audrey and her church league basketball team.

Bob attended New York City public schools, before a full tuition scholarship took him to St. Lawrence University in Upstate New York where he played varsity baseball and basketball, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1951 with a B.A. in economics. He attended night school at New York University to earn his MBA.

Bob and Audrey were married in July 1954 and had three daughters.

The family relocated to Massachusetts and Bob soon became a diehard Red Sox and Patriots fan.  He suffered through many losing seasons, but declared his life complete after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series.  (Of course, that championship only fueled his desire for more wins.)

Bob spent his entire career with W.R. Grace & Company, starting as a college trainee in 1951 and retiring in 1990 as Executive Vice President and President of Grace Specialty Chemicals.

In 1990 Bob and Audrey retired to Vero Beach, FL and North Falmouth, MA where they continued to excel as tennis doubles partners and became avid golfers at the Woods Hole Golf Club in Woods Hole, MA and the Moorings Club in Vero Beach. “Dad loved Fenway Park, the ‘Connecticut ladies’ basketball team, New England towns and democracy,” recalled daughter Carol Samuels.

In Vero Beach, Bob found a special fulfillment by using his financial expertise as a committed board member and fundraiser for the Gifford Youth Achievement Center (GYAC) and Indian River Habitat for Humanity.  “During the thirty years I have known and worked with Bob, he was a person who had a passion not only for GYAC, but for humanity as well.” said Dr. Ronald Hudson, GYAC founder and long time educator.

Bob never forgot that a his scholarship allowed him to attend college and launch a successful career.  He and Audrey funded scholarship assistance for young Black men from the New York City public schools and the GYAC to continue their education.  “He wasn’t only looking for the best and the brightest,” said GYAC Executive Director Angelia Perry. “Bob wanted students who would succeed with hard work on their part and some financial assistance.  It didn’t matter if they wanted to pursue vocational training or a 4-yr. Degree; he wanted to help.”

Freddie Woolfork, GYAC Director of Public Relations and Facility Operations, recalls giving a presentation to potential donors where he described the need for a youth center to improve the graduation rate of African American students in the Indian River County Public Schools. “After the presentation, [Bob] said to me that I nailed it. ‘Just keep sharing the story and the rest will come to fruition.’ And he was right.”

Bob’s wife Audrey passed away in 2017 after almost 63 years of marriage. He will be greatly missed by daughters Barbara Samuels (and Anne Johnson) of Baltimore, MD, Carol Samuels (and Norene Pease) of Shutesbury, MA and Joanne Couture (Bill Couture) of Malden, MA; and grandchildren Michelle Couture Jimenez (Cristian Jimenez) and Jeffrey Couture; as well as his devoted caretakers.

The family suggests contributions in Bob’s memory to the Gifford Youth Achievement Center, 4875 43rd Avenue, Vero Beach, FL 32967, https://www.gyac.net, and Indian River Habitat for Humanity, 4580 N. US Highway 1, Vero Beach, FL 32967, https://www.irchabitat.org.

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