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Bob Fishburn, a retired journalist for the Roanoke Times, wrote wonderful obituaries. When urged several years ago, in good health, to write his own, he declined. A modest man, had he accepted this challenge, he would probably have said, “Robert Nelson Fishburn was born in 1934, lived a full life, was a devoted husband and father of three girls, and died on March 24, 2012.” Bob’s niece, Katherine Fulton summed this up: “Bob was a sweet and gentle man, whose values and way of living epitomized another era. He had a great mind and a great heart, and there was never any question which would govern his life: his heart.”
Bob was the son of Katherine Nelson Fishburn and Roanoke Times and World News publisher, Junius Parker Fishburn. He attended Episcopal High School, Washington and Lee University, and Columbia University. He served in the United States Navy and held the rank of Lieutenant.
Upon returning to Roanoke in 1960, Fishburn joined the news staff at the Roanoke Times and World News as a staff reporter, eventually working as a copy editor and a state editor before being promoted to Assistant City Editor. In 1969, he was named Editorial Page Editor at the World-News, the post his father once held. He went on to edit the Commentary page and regularly wrote a column that had a dedicated following.
Bob Fishburn was passionate about the written word and was a voracious reader. He collected books, always making sure that their bindings were properly cared for. Wherever he lived, there were never enough bookshelves. His curiosity and appetite for learning were constant companions, always leading him to research new words, authors, and ideas.
An ever-present love of music brought richness and fullness to his life. Although his musical taste was broad, he particularly loved traditional jazz. Although unschooled musically, he studied its formation and development as a genre and traveled to performances of favorite musicians. His house was always filled with music.
Second only to his family, philanthropy was Fishburn’s greatest love. He served on the Boards of North Cross School, Roanoke College, Mill Mountain Theater, Center in the Square, the Red Cross and countless other Roanoke organizations. A quiet man who never sought recognition for himself, Bob Fishburn’s generosity contributed greatly to his beloved Roanoke. Giving to others was such a pleasure for him. He rarely turned anybody down.
More than anything, Bob’s passion was his family. He raised three wonderful daughters, and they were the center of his life. Bob’s girls meant everything to him and his kindness as a father, and later in life as a grandfather, may be what he is most remembered for.
He is survived by his wife, Sibyl Norment Fishburn, his children, Laurie Fishburn Farr and her husband Michael; Sibyl Fishburn Kuelling and husband Chris; Blair Fishburn Burford and husband Reid. His grandchildren are Robert Farr, Maggie Farr, Christopher Kuelling, Anna Kuelling, Jack Kuelling, Will Burford, and Katie Burford.
He is also survived by his sister, Sally Fishburn Crockett.
The family would like to thank Dr. Bill Erwin, Dr. William Fintel and the staff of Good Samaritan Hospice for their excellent care.
A service in memory and in celebration of Robert Nelson Fishburn’s life will be held on Friday, March 30 at 11 a.m. at Second Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, where he was a lifelong member. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests support of Second Presbyterian Church, North Cross School, or the charity of their choice.
March 30, 2012, 11:00 A.M.
Second Presbyterian Church
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There will be no visitation.