Former pastor dies

Published 9:25 pm Saturday, November 30, 2013

The former 23-year pastor of a large downtown church died on Thanksgiving Day at age 95.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Marr, who was named pastor emeritus upon his retirement from Suffolk Christian Church in 1985, came to Suffolk in 1962 when the church was seeking a pastor. It followed several years of service for the Massachusetts native in various New England churches.



His wife, Barbara, recalled that he came to Suffolk after members of the search committee for the church heard him speak as a guest preacher at a church in North Carolina.

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“Robert felt that being from the north, the cultural differences might be too great,” she said. “The church leaders told him the church needed to change along with changes that were happening in society. They needed a minister who would love them and guide them through the changes they needed to make. He said, ‘How can I refuse that?’”

As it turns out, his son Bruce Marr said, his native region wasn’t a problem.

“We came into Suffolk as Yankees,” Bruce Marr said. “Back in the ‘60s, that was a little bit different than today. Despite that handicap, Dad quickly made friends with everyone and got their confidence. People felt they didn’t have to worry about this particular Yankee.”

Marr went into the ministry following service in the Army Air Corps and as a teacher and coach at a New England preparatory school for boys.

“While there, he became quite sure that what he really wanted to do was to help others find a religious faith and religious values,” Barbara Marr said.

Marr attended Andover Newton Theological School and was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree from Elon College in 1969.

Marr held the rare distinction of being named First Citizen or Citizen of the Year both in Suffolk and in Conneaut, Ohio, where he had led a church previously. The Suffolk honor came in 1973, 13 years after the one in Ohio.

Another unusual merit of Marr’s was his status as a direct descendant of Mayflower passengers, and he was a leader in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

Marr’s leadership in Suffolk did not end at the walls of Suffolk Christian Church. He was a prominent figure in helping the Civil Rights movement in Suffolk go as smoothly as possible.

“He tried to help civil rights and integration move forward in the community in a peaceful manner,” Barbara Marr said. “He was asked by several community leaders for advice, and he hosted some of the first integrated, interdenominational ministers’ meetings in Suffolk.”

He also was a member and former president of the Suffolk Rotary Club and served as chairman of the Suffolk Parks and Recreation Committee.

Son Wayne Marr said his father’s leadership came naturally.

“He always strove for harmony, but not just harmony for harmony’s sake,” Wayne Marr said. “He always had other goals, and he always accomplished his goals without any backlash. I don’t know how he did that, except he had a good understanding of human nature. He was very influential without being antagonistic. That’s something that good leaders have, but the majority of the population comes up short.”

His five children will remember him most as a family man and avid fan of friendly competition of any kind.

Marr was a strong tennis player and won numerous local titles. He continued to play tennis up until just a few years ago, Bruce Marr said.

“Mom put the kibosh on that when he was about 92 or 93,” he said.

He continued to play golf, though, and also enjoyed a round of cards, croquet and badminton with the family.

“He was quite the competitor,” daughter Sarah Marr said, adding her father played tennis, soccer and baseball and ran track in college. “He was just always wanting to play a game.”

Daughter Diane Marr said her father’s influence trickled down.

“All five of his children are tennis players even today because of him,” she said. “His family was clearly his highest priority. We spent much family time together on long camping trips across the country.”

She added her father also enjoyed watching sports, particularly the Boston Red Sox.

Marr is also survived by daughter Lauren and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.

A service will take place Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Suffolk Christian Church, with visitation with the family afterward in the church’s fellowship hall.