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Robert Karel Weatherall

Robert Karel Weatherall, former Director of the Office of Career Services at M.I.T., died on December 26, 2015 at his home in Ipswich. He was 83. In addition to his career at MIT, Robert Weatherall was a onetime member of the School Committee, a Library Trustee, and a member of the Trust Fund Committee. He was a passionate advocate of education and was the first to work to ensure that the Foeffees of Little Neck honored William Payne's 17th century gift to Ipswich students. He had an abiding interest in the public good, whether it be the welfare of the schoolchildren of Ipswich or access to and stewardship of open spaces.

Mr Weatherall grew up in wartime Britain, not far from Windsor Castle. His father Robert was an Eton College science master. His mother Maria Anna Carolina Isakovics of Bohemia in the Czech Republic was a translator. Their house at Eton, in the war years, was filled with Czech refugees, leading to vibrant conversations late into the night. The oldest of three children, Robert attended St. George's Choir School in Windsor, followed by Eton College and then King's College, Cambridge University, where he earned a masters degree in history.

Bob might have stayed at Cambridge. He loved the intellectual community, the traditions, history, and beauty of the place. He took a job there in the admissions office but, perhaps it was his first visit to America as a teenager at Camp Rising Sun in the Adirondacks which stirred his curiosity to return to the U.S. a few years later. Bob applied for and obtained a position in the Admissions Office at M.I.T. This was meant to be a temporary position, but during the first year, he met Sally Lunt, who worked at the time for Professor Harold Egerton of M.I.T. They became engaged, and M.I.T offered Bob a permanent job. Over the years his position evolved. He moved from Undergraduate Admissions to Graduate Admissions and eventually to the Office of Career Services, where he became Dean of the department and a highly respected voice on career counseling.

 Following their marriage, in 1960 he and Sally moved with their baby Bobby to Ipswich. Within three years Alexander and Helen were born. Sally introduced Bob to skiing and tennis. There was house renovation, gardening, long walks in beautiful corners of Essex County, trips to the White Mountains, voyages downriver in various boats borrowed, scavenged, both sound and porous, sail and power. And every few years, a trip to England to see his parents. Bob sang with the Newburyport Choral Society and was a member of the Monday Evening Club which met for the occasional dinner to hear a learned paper by one of its members.

Sally died in 1981. Bob married Mary Pennington Updike, she and her family having been friends since the start of his Ipswich years. Two enormous London Plain Trees, standing at the edge of 40 East Street, mark his life there. They sprang from saplings he took from a tree at M.I.T. Trees were always a passion of Bob's. As a boy at Eton, he'd won a prize, a book on English trees. Perhaps his father had influenced the award, he would say. In any case, it was influential. Behind the house he and Mary shared he cultivated his "arboretum". There and in the big field beyond he cut paths and cleared windfalls, nurturing seedlings. Time with a scythe and bow saw was his exercise, his recreation.

Bob was deeply involved in the effort to preserve Nichols Field as Town public space. Once that was achieved he worked on his own for years in the field mowing, pruning, keeping it clean. It remains a verdant open space, a public space, on the edge of the marsh, a fitting testament to his legacy.

His step-daughter Elizabeth Updike Cobblah writes "How much we will all miss this big-hearted man of humor, dignity, ideas and knowledge of trees, who worked with his hands as well as his mind, reading big books and the English paper, caring for the land, admiring the changing sky....."

Bob leaves his wife Mary, his two sons Robert and Alexander, and a daughter Helen, their spouses Sandy, Laura and Chris, and his six grandchildren, Sarah, Phoebe, Grace, Hayden, Bliss, and Carolina. He is also survived by his brother John of Kingston, Ontario, and his sister Karla O'Brien of Belmont, and a niece, Julia O’Brien. He leaves, too, Mary's children Elizabeth, David, Michael, and Miranda, their spouses and seven step-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Ascension Memorial Church in Ipswich, on January 31, at 2pm. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions in his name may be made to Essex County Greenbelt Association, 82 Eastern Avenue, Essex, MA 01929 or to the Ipswich Music, Arts & Drama Association, Inc, Box 449, Ipswich, MA 01938.

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