Robert Huff (1928-2023) – Daily Bulldog
Robert Hoff passed away peacefully at the age of 95 on Friday, August 18, 2023 with his loving family by his side.
Robert, or Rob as he liked to be called, was born on May 1, 1928 to Clarence and Batya (Morse) Huff. He grew up in Strong, Maine and graduated from Strong High School on June 12, 1945 in a graduating class of 7 students. He played trombone in the band and loved playing basketball. He continued his education by enrolling at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston to earn a Bachelor of Technology degree in May 1949. In 1999, Rob was inducted into Wentworth Institute’s Black and Gold Society.
On November 11, 1950, he married the love of his life, Nancy Hayes, at First Congregational Church of Norwich Hill in Huntington, Massachusetts. One of Rob’s greatest accomplishments in his life was raising his four wonderful children, Bonnie, Gary, Dana, and Randy.
Rob began his construction career with Hydro Dredge in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he built breakwaters off the coast of New England. He later moved to Norwich Hill and worked with a number of high profile contractors including but not limited to; Virgilio Construction in Pittsfield, Daniel O’Connell Companies in Holyoke, Fontaine Brothers in Chicopee, JF White in Stow, MA, Gagliarducci Construction in Springfield, and White Flaherty and Sands Joint Venture. Some of the projects he has worked on include the residential and fine arts towers at UMass Amherst, Route 391 through Chicopee, Route 91 from Northampton through Greenfield, Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, the Texon Paper Mill in Russell, and the Bondi Island wastewater treatment plant in Agawam. The Stanley Homes office building off Western Avenue in Westfield, Art Cement in Wilbraham, and Gale/Montague Elementary School in Montagu.
Rob loved working with his hands and wood. In 1955 he built their first house on Tucker Road, Norwich Hill on land he and Nancy had bought from Bert Wood. At the end of Rob’s construction career, he and Nancy teamed up to build log homes, which Nancy sold and Rob built. During that time they moved from Norwich Hill to Worthington and built a beautiful two-story log house off Kenbrook Road. When winter became a little more than Rob and Nancy wanted to deal with, they built another stunning three-bedroom ranch in Wilmington, North Carolina just a short distance from the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. When Nancy’s health began to decline, they decided to move to Orfield, Pennsylvania near son Randy and his wife Judy in nearby Fogelsville. They had purchased Judy’s parents’ house and once again Rob and Nancy decided to add on, and they built a beautiful four season sunroom, making a wonderful addition to their recent home.
Rob was involved in his community as well, running for and elected to the Huntington School Committee one of the seven cities that govern the Gateway Regional School District. With his construction and engineering background, he played an important role in expanding the high school complex by adding the middle school building along with a state-of-the-art cafeteria and kitchen. Nancy became the head baker once the new addition was completed.
Rob loved construction so much that he did a lot of “craft” work for friends and neighbors. He was remodeling kitchens, building all the cabinetry, rebuilding stoves and chimneys, replacing roofs, laying foundations, and buying and flipping houses before that was even a term. These “odd jobs” allowed him to employ many local men who needed extra income. He was a great teacher to his children as well, showing them the ropes of building literally from the ground up.
One of our fondest memories is that on Sunday mornings in the summer he would take Bonnie, Gary and Dana, all under the age of 6, fishing, and he would carry one on his shoulders, one on his back, and the other would walk to his favorite creek. A fishing spot about a mile and a half up the road through the woods on an old logging trail. When the walker gets tired, he changes his shoulders or back and continues the journey, also carrying four rods, worms, and snacks. He would put us with a worm on the hook, hooks in the water, and then try to fish his own hook in the water, which was probably a lot less than he wanted, because inevitably one or more of us would get a bait. Bite and shake the hook until it reaches the tree branches above, and sometimes the river will be attached to it, or one of us will slide down the rocks into the river and have to get us back to shore. He had the patience of Job! It just showed how much he loved being with his kids and fishing. Another fishing story is that he took Gary, Dana and Randy deep sea fishing off Point Judith Rhode Island in what was probably the worst seas we have ever been in. Randy became so seasick that he spent the entire time “feeding the fish” from the back of the boat and was unable to fish at all. We remember coming home with the maximum amount of cod, which pleased Nancy.
Rob was also one for deer hunting. He shot his first deer on Day Mountain in Strong Maine when he was 16 years old. He and his father were so proud of the 8-point dollar that they mounted the head and hung the mountain proudly on the wall in each of their homes. Rob was so proud of his heritage that one fall he took Gary and Dana deer hunting in Maine on his old stomping grounds. It was a great trip and we learned a lot about where my dad was from, and of course he had us climb Mount Day to show us where he shot his first deer. We used to hunt with my dad when we lived in Huntington, and he shot another 8-pointer there, too. The kids decided to pin the head and hang it proudly on the wall next to their first deer.
Camping was another favorite activity for Rob. He and Nancy took the family on many trips from Virginia to Canada. After spending several seasons in a tent, they purchased a pop-up camper. Rob made a huge camp kitchen that slides into the camper and sits on the picnic table with everything we need to cook; Pots, pans, plates, plates, silverware, you name it, it was in the camp kitchen, of course it was built of wood!
Gardening was another love of his life. Honestly, he had one of the largest gardens we’ve ever seen. When it came time to harvest the peas, of course they weren’t the edible kind, so they had to be peeled, and we would sit for hours peeling bags of peas from the grocery store! He also didn’t like weeds, so we would spend long hours while Dad was at work weeding his garden, so when he came home, he didn’t have to do it. When Rob wasn’t vegetable gardening, he was either tending to the precious red roses lining the split-rail fence or the red geraniums on the front porch. Now you know why we all love gardening, he was a great teacher.
Rob was the youngest and last of his siblings who all died before him. Kendall, Rowena, Mildred and Birchard. The love of his life, Nancy, passed away on January 22, 2016 and his youngest son, Randy, died on May 2, 2020, and he now joins them all and his loving parents, Clarence and Patia. He is survived by his daughter Bonnie Chandler Shipp and her husband Mike of Chicopee, Massachusetts, his son Gary of Russell, Massachusetts, his son Dana and his wife Lynn of Alton, New Hampshire, and daughter-in-law Judy (Major) Huff of Foglesville, Pennsylvania. Rob is also survived by grandson Evan, granddaughters Maura and Kirsten, grandson Cameron, great-grandson Logan and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family plans to hold a memorial service with family in mid-October at Huntington Cemetery off Littleville Road next to Gateway High School where Rob will be buried with his beloved wife, Nancy. Arrangements have not yet been determined.