No Friend was more beloved, or more loving, than Bob Vogel. His sudden and unexpected death on April 15, three days after Easter, was a blow to those of us who knew and loved him. He will be deeply missed.
For over forty years, Bob worked tirelessly on behalf of peace, justice, and Friends' organizations such as the AFSC, FWCC, and PYM. Bob cared deeply about children and youth, and it seems fitting that his last message was addressed to the children of Orange Grove Meeting.
When I learned of Bob Vogel's passing through the Internet, I asked Friends to share their memories. What follows is a kind of "electronic memorial meeting" honoring a beloved Friend who enriched our lives with his humor, insight, and commitment. Bob's actual memorial service was held at Whittier First Friends Church on May 17, 1998.--Editor.
Bob Vogel's Last Easter
It was Easter Sunday, a shining, beautiful day. Bob stood at the foot of the front stairs to the Orange Grove Meetinghouse. He had a warm smile above his natty bow tie and a firm handshake for each of us as he declared, "I'm the official greeter."
"It's nice to be greeted," I said, responding to the subtle radiance I sensed in him. As I mounted the stairs, I thought, "I'm glad that Bob knows how much he is loved.
Shortly after our children came into the Meeting room, he rose, looked at them, and said, "I always feel happy when I see our children come in to Meeting. I won't be around much longer--I guess I won't be at my memorial service [this caused a gentle ripple of smiles and laughter throughout the room in which Bob shared]. But you'll be around much longer. As William Penn said, I believe the immortality any of us will have lives in the memories and love that those remaining on earth carry for us. You are our assurance of continuity."
Bob was wrong about one thing, I believe. He will be present at his own memorial service in spirit. And the Spirit was the most important part of him.
--Catherine Langston, Orange Grove Meeting (PYM)
A Life of Service Based on Spiritual Commitment
Robert Vogel's spiritual roots were in the Salem Evangelical and Reformed Church in Rochester, New York, where he was baptized in 1917. He was confirmed at age 13, making a commitment to live his life following the example of Jesus. The life and Spirit of Christ, which he felt shone brightly in others as well as Jesus, were the basis for his lifelong commitment to pacifism. After the draft was instituted in 1940 Bob became a conscientious objector with the support of his parents, minister, and Friends at Syracuse Meeting which he joined. His spiritual mentor became Norman Whitney, who was a leading Quaker, chairman of the Syracuse Peace Council, and head of the local Fellowship of Reconciliation. From 1942-44 Bob served as Norman Whitney's assistant. In 1943 Bob was ordered to the Civilian Public Service Camp at Campton, New Hampshire and then was transferred to fight forest fires near Lake Tahoe, California. Later he was assigned to the National Service Board for Religious Objectors in Washington D.C. and then back to Syracuse to replace Norman Whitney. From 1944-46 he was reassigned to the fund-raising unit for CPS which was connected to the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia.
Bob joined the Pasadena staff of the American Friends Service Committee in 1946 as Peace Education Secretary and Director of the AFSC-sponsored Institute of International Relations at Whittier College. Later he served as Executive Secretary of the New York Regional office, National Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Search Program of AFSC's International Division, and as Finance Secretary of the Pacific Southwest Region. During these years he visited AFSC projects in India, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, the Middle East, and East Africa.
Locally he organized the first Peace March in Los Angeles (1960), taught the first course on nonviolence at UCLA, and witnessed weekly against the Vietnam War. Bob was also active in the civil rights movement and other programs of social justice.
After becoming a member of the Religious Society of Friends, Bob's monthly meeting was his spiritual source and support community. He served in many capacities, including Clerk of Orange Grove Monthly Meeting. Bob was active in Southern California Quarterly Meeting, served as Clerk of Pacific Yearly Meeting from 1982-85, and as the Brinton Visitor for Pacific and North Pacific Yearly Meetings.
Bob was committed to the Friends World Committee for Consultation and served as its first Development Secretary. He traveled widely among the world family of Friends promoting cooperation and understanding between programmed and unprogrammed Quakers. Believing in the importance of religious education, he served on the Pendle Hill General Board and as a Friend in Residence at Woodbrooke College, in Birmingham, England.
Bob's non-Quaker service included leadership positions on the boards of the Southern California Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Pasadena Chapter of the United Nations Association, KPFK-FM radio station, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Town Hall of Southern California, the Pasadena Healthy Start school program and a neighborhood association. Bob served as a member of the Los Angeles County Grand Jury Association where he reviewed programs for children and families.
Beginning as a Boy Scout, for over 70 years Bob served his community and worked for peace and social justice. He considered himself lucky that he could lead a totally focused life, integrating his employment with his spiritual life. He was a gentle person full of wisdom and playfulness. A man of great conviction and steadfastness, he believed in the innate goodness of the human species and the sustaining power of love.