Obituary of Robert Mason Colley
Robert Mason Colley, beloved husband, father, brother, uncle and friend, passed away at home after a year-long illness, on August 20, 2023. He was predeceased by his parents, Robert D. Colley and Margery M. Russell. Born on October 15, 1942, in Buffalo, NY, Bob grew up surrounded by a large and loving family including his beloved brother, James Colley, aunts and uncles and many cousins and second cousins. He graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in English and received a MA in the Philosophy of Education from the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Bob spent many years dedicated to the study of philosophy and was a life-long learner. His curiosity and deep interest in others was clear in his hobbies, his work, and through regular conversation with his many friends near and far, including the best friends he made while at Hamilton and Syracuse.
Bob’s career at Syracuse University began in 1975 at University College, where he held several positions, ultimately serving as Associate Dean. He was responsible for the college’s early development of distance learning and online programs, and later led marketing, public relations, and publications efforts for University College. His true joy was in the arts world. In 2007 he established Stone Canoe, a community arts journal that publishes the work of writers and artists who have been residents of Central New York – including people of any age, discipline, or working in any medium. After retirement in 2012, Bob established a publishing press, Standing Stone Books, and together with his long-time design collaborator and close friend, Adam Rozum, published books of poetry, fiction, and design.
In addition to being a gifted writer, editor and administrator, Bob was an accomplished landscape and portrait photographer who was represented by galleries on the outer Cape Cod area as well as in Central New York, and he showed his photographs in several local galleries. He published three books of his own photography, one focused on Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, and two focusing on landscapes on the Outer Cape. Outside of photography, he was also an avid tennis player – loving the clay courts at Sedgewick and a long-time member of Drumlins Tennis Club. He was also a film fanatic who remembered every actor’s name and their work, in dozens of movies.
Bob was delighted to become a father at the age of 54, and was a tremendous dad, the greatest friend to his daughter and one of the brightest lights in her life. He cared about who she was as a person, and was keenly interested in her education, interests, and accomplishments, supporting and cheering her on every day. They shared a love of rock n’ roll, the Sopranos, photography, philosophy, and coffee ice cream – the list goes on and on.
Perhaps Bob’s greatest gift was his ability to connect with other people, with a true interest in who they were. Whether he was fostering collaboration in creative projects or simply making friends, his keen interest in people, literature, and the visual arts shone. He served as a board member for the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse, the Ithaca City of Asylum, and for the YMCA of Central New York Y-Arts. His warmth and genuine curiosity about others, coupled with his sharp intelligence and humor, were gifts treasured by friends and family alike. His family recalls that Bob would often get lost in conversation at events and while running errands, returning home to his family by saying “I just met the most interesting person…” – and then going on to tell the person’s story and, on many an occasion, with plans for future connection with them. As quick as he was to make friends, he was also able to maintain and nurture those friendships. He was engaged in news and politics, and was slow to become angry, having the rare gift of being able to have respectful disagreements with friends and colleagues.
Bob was deeply beloved by his spouse of 28 years, Katryn Hansen; his daughter, Maura Colley; his brother, James (Cheryl Donohew) Colley; niece Janalee Colley and nephew Marshall Foster; and brother-in-law, Marty Hansen, who honor and remember his generosity, unconditional love, steadfast support, and abiding interest and warmth.
A memorial reception to celebrate Bob’s life will be held on Saturday, October 7th from 5 to 7pm at ArtRage Gallery at 505 Hawley Avenue in Syracuse. The family asks that any charitable donations be made to the Stone Canoe Robert Colley Prize for Fiction, by contacting Phil Memmer at the YMCA of Central New York at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (315)474-6851 ext. 328.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert Colley, please visit Tribute Store