Robert Ellis Livesey, 95

Robert Ellis Livesey, a resident of Wilton for 38 years, died at age 95, on Feb. 7, 2015, at home with his family.

He was the much beloved husband of Magdalen, caring dad of Sharon (Neil Talbot), Rob (Diana), Joan, Sarah, Colin, and Sebastian, proud grandfather of Sam Talbot, Cecilia Livesey (Jonathan Freedman), Jessica Olin, Benjamin and Heather Leander, and Zella Olsson Livesey, and great-grandfather of Charlie, Holden and Annabel Freedman and Maia Leavitt.

Son of Anthony and Marie Livesey and brother of Alice (Campaigne), Robert (Bob) was born in Jersey City and grew up in Montclair, N.J. He attended Montclair Academy, where he later served as a trustee. He graduated in 1941 from Princeton University and remained loyal to the orange and black for the rest of his life. He instilled the Princeton tradition in two sons and two granddaughters, and was thrilled to participate in his and their many reunions through 2013.

From 1942 to 1944, Robert was stationed in England and Ireland, where as a technical representative attached to the RAF he kept Wright Aeronautical planes flying through this period of World War II. In Ireland, he met and married Maureen Shaw, with whom he raised his first three children in Montclair after a brief stint in the U.S. Navy as an aeronautics instructor at Annapolis. The love of flying he developed over these years never left him — though it may have terrified the various family and friends who flew with him down the Hudson River or out to Point O’Woods, Long Island, to his parents’ summer home.

After the war, Robert joined his father’s business, Cortina Learning International, Inc., publisher of the first foreign language distance-learning courses. He later expanded this business by purchasing Famous Schools, which offered courses in art, writing and photography. Famous Artists School, founded by Norman Rockwell and a group of other prominent artists, was headquartered in Westport, Conn., and became a magnet for a variety of well-known American illustrators who served as its Guiding Faculty. In 1995 Cortina Famous Schools moved its main office to Wilton, and Robert and Magdalen continued working together as they had since their marriage in 1970.

Second only to family, Robert’s businesses were the center of his life. They gave him the opportunity to express his love of language and fine art, fulfill his desire to help people improve their lives, and nurture a far-flung social network. Particularly important to him was his more than 35-year relationship with his Japanese business partners. He visited Japan annually from 1982 until 2012. On these trips, he savored Japanese culture, food, and most of all people, from high-ranking executives to hotel clerks.

In fact, drawing a boundary between business and life was something Robert never did. You couldn’t meet him without being drawn into conversation about language, art and learning — and soon he would be offering you one of his courses. Bob Livesey could not imagine the purpose of retirement and could be found at his desk on Hollyhock Road until disabled by a fall this past December.

He leaves us with wonderful memories: 95 years of persistence and trying always to live and learn; youthful energy and an indomitable optimism; a wry sense of humor, including a trove of jokes and stories, especially those that required a foreign accent for full effect; a love of sports, especially those where he was required to give his all, such as tennis, skiing, and sailing; a great affection for animals, especially a succession of family dogs of many different breeds; a taste for good wines, oysters, and his wife’s cooking; and the pleasure he took in hosting friends, family, and neighbors in Wilton and at his second home on Block Island. His greatest gift was connecting with people, which was also his greatest joy. His network of friends and colleagues stretches across the generations and around the world. He will be dearly missed.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Thomas McAleer Visual Arts Endowed Scholarship. For information on how to contribute, contact