Robert J. Colannino

Robert J. Colannino

March 7th, 1948 July 26th, 2020

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Obituary for Robert J. Colannino

Colannino, Robert J. the Renaissance Man of Buckingham Street, passed away on July 26, 2020, after a brief illness. He will be missed by his wife of 50 years, Blanca Kolb Colannino, of Cambridge, MA, his older brother, Francis X. Colannino, of Somerville, MA, his sister, Maria S. Swanson, of Millbrae, California, many nephews and nieces and grand nephews and nieces. He was predeceased by his father, Anthony Colannino, his mother, Sarah Colannino, and his older brother, Joseph A. Colannino.

Robert was born on March 7, 1948 in a West Cambridge neighborhood seven blocks from Harvard Square. His father was a North Cambridge barber who purchased the house Bob first lived in at the end of the Great Depression, in 1937. His mother was a baker for 10 years for the Hathaway Bakery in Cambridge and later in life, a baker for Sage’s Bakery, also located in Cambridge.

The librarian at the Harvard Lamont Library, Jerome T. Lewis, grandson of George Washington Lewis, Steward of the Porcellian Club, lived next door to Bob’s childhood home on Parker Street. Mr. Lewis, who was born in 1923, instilled in Bob a great love of books. Bob began his own library at a very young age. When other kids were collecting baseball cards, Bob was collecting books.

His lifelong love of books resulted in Bob’s using many quotes from the old classics, especially Dickens, in his everyday speech, yet he was never ostentatious about it. He just loved proper use of the English language.

Bob graduated with the Class of 1961 from the Peabody Grammar School on Linnaean Street and with the Class of 1965 from Cambridge High & Latin School, where Bob excelled in football. At a young age while at Peabody, Bob won a prize for his acuity in chess. He played chess throughout his life and rarely lost a chess match.

Bob followed in his late brother’s, Joseph’s, footsteps by going to Boston State College, where he majored in History, graduating in 1969. He loved the period of the French Revolution, (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,”) and could wax eloquently on the irony of a king and queen losing their heads by helping the birth of a new republic.

Bob began his early professional life as a history teacher but soon after became a stock broker and a commodities broker. He tailor-made his advice to his clients, who always respected his wisdom, especially when it was “you don’t have to be in equities with falling interest rates, let’s try Treasuries”. That simple advice made those who heeded it quite comfortable.

His intellectual curiosity led him into many areas, into building and architecture where he would supervise renovation projects, into interior design, where he had an appreciation for Persian rugs, into horology, where he collected railway pocket watches of the highest precision. Before embarking on any endeavor, he would research it thoroughly in order to avoid the pitfalls.

Bob practiced the adage “to have a friend, you have to be a friend” as well as anyone. Over the years, Bob grew to understand that, although he lived in the shadows of Harvard University, there was a dichotomy between the high ideals taught at such institutions and the reality of competing in the everyday world. In all of his dealings, he always practiced the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

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Service Details

  • Service

    Mount Auburn Cemetery
    580 Mount Auburn Street
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |
  • Interment

    Mount Auburn Cemetery
    580 Mount Auburn Street
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |

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Sylvia Smith

I am so sad to hear of his passing. I very much wanted to introduce my children to their east coast family. I see from the postings he touched everyone he met. Much love, Sylvia Steve, Amanda and Andrew Smith
Comment | Posted at 06:47pm via Condolence

Philip Mc Laughlin

Philip McLaughlin

My deepest condolences to family on passing of a great man
i met bob and frank about 30 years ago and learned a lot from him about antiques,collectibles which he enjoyed so much
He was a genuine guy and we had
many dealings together over years
Bob was old school no mobile phones, no big TVs Just some good conversation and some of his home made wine
I will miss him and laughs we had together
Cambridge has lost one of its greatest generals
Robert Colaninno RIP
Comment | Posted at 09:36pm via Condolence

Joseph McKeigue

Joe McKeigue

My brother Kevin and I send our condolences to all the
Colannino family. I remember Bobby from the old neighborhood as always a warm, friendly guy, always interested in what was happening to my brothers and me. Moving away from the neighborhood, I did not have the contact my brother John and my folks, all now deceased, had with him, but I remember them all talking fondly of him as they stayed engaged in the Cambridge
community. I particularly remember his kind words at
my mother's wake. May he rest in peace and may his memory live on in the many folks he touched on Parker,
Buckingham and Healy Streets.
Comment | Posted at 05:02pm via Condolence

Frank Colannino

Last week was frantic. I was at Bobby’s bedside praying he would wake up.
I went over poems and soliloquies in my head that I, as an 18 year old college student, had read out loud and memorized at home. My plan was to print those and read to Bobby.
My audience sixty years ago, mostly reluctant, never enthusiastic, but sometimes, at least, accepting, consisted of my 16 year old sister, Maria, and my 12 year old brother, Bobby. I called them “the union” because they presented a united front and pretended to organize against me.
All these years later, when Bobby would stop by my house for coffee, a line or two from one of the soliloquies, or a line or two from one of the poems would come out of his mouth, perfectly delivered.
But always, and ever the showman, Bobby would juxtapose with my favorite lines his favorite lines from Dickens or Sheridan's “School for Scandal”. He would make his delivery with that twinkle in his eye, that mischievous mirth, at once engaging and irreverent. I would think, while smiling to myself, “How nice that the pupil became the master.”
Comment | Posted at 07:31am via Condolence

Fran Weindling

To lose Bob is to lose one of Cambridge's finest examples of erudite, honorable, humorous, sophistication. He helped introduce me to the area when I moved to Cambridge after college, and continued, through the years to be one of the people who made me feel completely at home there, as though I had "found my people" with and, in some cases, through him.We should all honor this gentleman in his passing - for me, he helped me investigate, get more acquainted with, and appreciate much of what is fine and beautiful about one of the cities that has made America what it is, and continues to hold that standard.For me, I think he will always be one of those abiding presences who are there to make sure the quality stays at the level it should be.
Posted at 02:38pm

Justin Colannino

I'll never forget Uncle Bob coming through my front door. I'm six. He has a big grin and glow in the dark swords. We hide in the front hall closet, watch them glow, and then have a sword fight while my dad yells at us to stop.

The fun never stopped with Uncle Bob: piles of unique and delightful trinkets to be explored, examined, and passed on for others to enjoy. Uncle Bob taught me not to take "stuff" seriously, to explore, to share, and to laugh.

The day he died, my three kids and I read a gift from him and Blanca to our young family: Mr. Pine's Purple House. Its about a man who - by being different - inspires his whole neighborhood to express themselves. By being different, Uncle Bob helped me learn how to do that same thing.
Comment | Posted at 10:26pm via Condolence

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