Robert Fairbairn Derrey passed away peacefully on March 26, 2020 after nearly nine decades of a life well-lived. Born to Natalie Fairbairn Derrey and Roger Derrey on August 12, 1931, Robert (Bob) was raised by his mother and grandparents, prominent Westfield residents Robert and Frances Fairbairn, at their historic family home on Kimball Avenue. Known as Brute to his family and close friends, Bob died in that same family home, eighty eight years later, beloved by his children, grandchildren and friends.
A graduate of Choate, Bob attended Harvard University with a four year interlude in the Navy, during which he served on the USS Nantahala (the Nasty Nan) in the Meditteranean. Before finishing his degree at Harvard, he married Westfield resident Nancy Sturmer on April 18, 1954. Nancy was a classmate and the sister of his good friend, and he loved to recount the day he asked her to go to the movies on a lark, assuming she would say no. She didn't. They married four months after their first date and raised four beloved children in WestfieldâMichael, Ann, Susan and Jacqueline.
Bob began his decades-long career on Wall Street at Gauranty Trust, later JP Morgan, and went on to municipal bond firm, Barr Brothers & Co., founded by Manning, Turner and Seymour Barr. When the last surviving Barr brother sold the firm to Bob and a couple of his colleagues, they worked indefatigably to cut expenses and grow the business by cultivating new relationships. Eventually named president of Barr Brothers, Bob was a people person and a shrewd businessman with a passion for investing and financial markets. He became lifelong friends with colleagues and associates at various municipal agencies around the city and country. To his grandchildren, he epitomized the glamour of old New York, with stories about martini lunches at Volare's, City Midday Club and Windows on the World. He took his family into the city every Christmas to see the Nutcracker and celebrate the holidays at the 21 Club.
A passionate historian and reader, Bob served on the board of trustees at St. Lawrence University, Kent Place School and the Wardlaw-Hartridge School. He delighted in learning and continued his education by auditing classes at Princeton into his late seventies. He was a long time member of Westfield Tennis Club and Echo Lake Country Club, where he had lunch with his friends regularly until his death. He played tennis with his children and continued to golf with his children and grandchildren until well after his vision began to fail due to glaucoma. Bob and Nan were also Vermonters, with a ski house at Stratton Mountain. A dedicated skier, he was instantly recognizable on the slopes in his yellow ski pants. Bob enjoyed traveling with his wife and family, from Morocco to Egypt to Italy and beyond.
He was preceded in death by 'his blushing bride,' Nancy Sturmer Derrey and many cherished dogs, including Bailey and Lucy. He is survived by his children, Michael, Ann, Susan and Jacqueline, by thirteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, all of whom he loved dearly. Cheers Brute! You will long be remembered for your wit, loyalty, intellect, passion, deep love and fearless sense of fun. Rub-a-dub-dub, Thanks for the grub, Yay God!
Robert Fairbairn Derrey was interred in a private family ceremony at Fairview Cemetery, Westfield on Monday, March 30. Arrangements by Gray Funeral Directors, Westfield. Please go to: www.grayfuneralhomes.com to offer condolences.