Robert Rue Parsonage died on July 31st after a decade long struggle with paralysis resulting from strokes. He passed away at his home in Cable WI at the side of his loving wife Ruth Lull Parsonage, while holding the hand of his oldest son Noah, shortly after a visit from younger son Ethan, daughter-in-law Amy and 6 year old grandson Akiva.

Robert was born August 20, 1937 in Minneapolis MN to parents, Charles William Parsonage and Blanche Marion Rue. He spent his boyhood in Minnesota with brothers William and Ronald.

After graduating from Minnetonka High School, Bob received higher education degrees from Carlton College in Northfield, MN. (1959), Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA. (1963), Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA. (1970), and his PhD from Hartford Seminary Foundation CT. (1975).

While serving as Chaplain and Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Springfield College, MA (1963-1973), Bob became actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement joining Martin Luther King’s Southern Christion Leadership Conference and traveling south with faculty and students on a number of occasions to work for Social Justice. It was during this time that Bob met and married his lifelong partner, Ruth Lull.

They went on to New York where Bob served as Executive for Education in the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, (1973-1987) and was the U.S. Representative, to the World Council of Churches Committee on Science and Society, (1978-1981). He also researched and edited a book titled “Church Related Higher Education”.

Robert lived life with an open heart and dedicating his life to leadership in higher education and respect for the environment. Closest to his heart was Northland College, in Ashland, WI where he served as President for 15 years (1987-2002). Throughout his tenure, he shared his passion, vision, and skills. His leadership enabled the college to enjoy a profound growth both in its campus and in its reputation nationally as an important Environmental-Liberal Arts Institution

Through the years, he was active locally with the Chequamegon Bay’s Alliance for Sustainability, Memorial Medical Center Board of Directors, the Presbyterian-Congregational Church, Ashland, WI and Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis.

Bob also loved art, music, gardening… and a good cigar.

He left this world peacefully, with no regrets, surrounded by love.

His family gives special thanks to Regional Hospice Services for Northwest Wisconsin for the help and support in his last weeks.

Memorial service will be postponed to a future date when all can travel and gather freely.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in his name to any of the following institutions: Northland College, Carlton College, Regional Hospice Services, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, Chequamegon Bay’s Alliance for Sustainability, the Cable Natural History Museum, Forest Lodge Library or Plymouth Congregational Church Minneapolis.

The Roberts Funeral Home in Ashland, WI is handling the arrangements.

To view this obituary online, sign the guestbook or express online condolences, visit us at

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