Music 02

Robert E. Jessup

January 6, 2021


Robert E. Jessup


Robert E. Jessup, 90, of Burlington passed away at the Village at Brookwood on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 10:40 p.m.

A native of Davenport, Iowa, Robert was born on December 18, 1930 to Maurice K. Jessup and Celia Evaline Hefley Jessup. He is predeceased by his parents and survived by Kathryn Eblen Jessup, his wife of 63 years; their daughter Laura Anne Harden and husband Kevin, of Mebane; son Edwin Andrew Muir Jessup and wife Melissa, of Durham; granddaughter Lucinda “Lucy” Harden, of Mebane; sister Evelyn J. Osman, of Winchester, OH; and niece Tara Smith, of Santa Barbara, CA.

After graduating with a degree in mathematics from Simpson College in his home state, Robert pursued a master’s degree in piano performance at Indiana University, which he chose to leave to marry Kathryn. His abilities with abstract math readily translated into a job as a computer systems analyst with Western Electric, where he stayed for 37 years until his retirement.

Robert and Kathryn initially settled in Chicago; job transfers took them to Boston and then northern New Jersey, where their children, Andrew and Laura, were born; further transfers included two-year excursions to the Marshall Islands (8 degrees north of the equator) and North Dakota (10 miles south of Canada) followed by returns to New Jersey, before a final move brought the family to North Carolina.

Robert and Kathryn’s shared love of, and training in, vocal music brought them together as performers in the University Singers at Indiana, and choral singing remained a constant presence throughout his life (in Chicago, their singing also brought the young couple extra income in the form of soloist fees from large church choirs). Prior to moving to Burlington and joining the First Presbyterian Church, Robert had conducted choirs for 8 years across three states/territories; he also provided piano accompaniment for Kathryn in recitals.

In addition to the choir, Robert served the First Presbyterian Church as both a Deacon and an Elder, and he was an active member of both the Alamance Chorale and the Burlington Kiwanis Club for over 25 years.

A series of trips to England and Scotland beginning in the 1970s, besides inspiring certain personal sartorial touches, instilled an early appreciation for single malt Scotch (and a particular fondness for Islay malts). After Robert’s retirement they traveled more in continental Europe, but from the late 1980s onwards the anchor of their summers was the annual pilgrimage to his home state for the Des Moines Metro Opera season.

A private memorial service will be conducted at the First Presbyterian Church of Burlington. A more traditional celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Memorials may be made to the Music Department of the First Presbyterian Church, 508 West Davis Street, Burlington, NC 27215 or to the Burlington Kiwanis Club, P.O. Box 857, Burlington, NC 27216.

Rich & Thompson Funeral and Cremation Service in Burlington is assisting the family.

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