Robert M. Birmingham, Bob to his friends and family and Bobo to his young grandchildren, passed away peacefully at his beloved home in Osterville, MA on November 3rd, 2019 at the age of 74.
Bob was born in Boston on May 16, 1945, the fourth child of John P. and Leona (McIntyre) Birmingham. He grew up in Wellesley, Centerville and Osterville. He attended St. Sebastian’s, The Canterbury School and Villanova University. Bob often spoke of his idyllic childhood. The friendships he formed in his youth remained with him throughout his life.
Bob’s gift for connecting with people and his entrepreneurial spirit served him well in his career as he moved from advertising to a variety of small businesses and ultimately to Steinway & Sons, which he bought with his brother Jack Birmingham in 1985. Bob and his brother revitalized the company and restored Steinway pianos to their original and unparalleled excellence. They worked closely with Steinway artists and restored the tradition of “factory concerts” in which these world-famous pianists performed for the craftspeople in Queens, NY. Bob introduced the Boston line of pianos which afforded the opportunity for more music lovers to enjoy the experience of owning and playing a Steinway quality instrument.
A proud Wildcat, Bob was deeply dedicated to his alma mater Villanova. He served as the Chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees and also on the steering committee of its first capital campaign, Transforming Minds and Hearts: The Campaign for Villanova. He made sure his children and grandchildren knew all the words to the ‘Nova fight song, and it gave him great pleasure to cheer the basketball team on to their many recent NCAA victories.
From childhood summers on Eel River to retirement on Oyster Harbors, Cape Cod was more than a second home to Bob. In the 1980’s as the youngest President in the Oyster Harbor Club’s history, Bob spearheaded the purchase of the renowned golf course from the Mellon family and secured a strong future for the Club for years to come. After the sale of Steinway in 1995, Bob focused his many talents on improving the community around him. Under his leadership as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Cape Cod Healthcare blossomed into one of the premier health care systems in Massachusetts. A lover of great music, Bob was also an enthusiastic patron of the Cape Cod Symphony and served on its board for many years.
Bob especially loved being out on the water and his home perched above West Bay. He always said this was where he would end his days, overlooking the water. And so it was.
Bob was a force. He was a big thinker, a generous giver and a devoted friend. He was the first person many called on for help or advice, never expecting anything in return. He loved nothing more than being with his friends and family. Bob was never one to shy away from healthy competition, whether it be on the golf course, at the bridge table, or in the living room during family games. He was equally at home entertaining a crowd with his stories as he was alone in his studio developing his newfound passion for oil painting. Each year Bob looked forward to spending winters playing golf at the beautiful Lost Tree Club in Florida. Bob loved to organize golf trips with his close friends to the best courses all over the world. Although he hadn’t been able to play as much golf in recent years, he was already planning the next big golf trip to Bermuda for his upcoming 75th birthday this May. He was a dedicated friend to so many and an exceptional husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle. He will be greatly missed.
Bob is survived by his beloved wife Fran, his daughter Kate Bontekoe of Geneva, Switzerland, her husband Frits and son Matthew; his daughter Maggie Mittan of Piedmont, CA, her husband John and their boys Eli and Ben; his daughter Suzy, of Los Angeles, CA; and his son Michael, of Higham, MA; his brother Paul Birmingham and his wife Pamela; his sister Lois Wrighton and her husband Rick; his sister-in-law Karen Birmingham; his brother Mark and his wife Jane; and his many nieces and nephews. His brother Jack predeceased him. Bob is also survived by Mardi Birmingham, the mother of his four children.
In lieu of flowers donations are suggested to Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation, 32 Main St., Hyannis, MA 02601.
Visiting hours will be 4 – 8 pm Friday, November 8, 2019 and a funeral mass will be celebrated 10 am Saturday both at Our Lady of Victory Church, 230 S Main St., Centerville, MA. Burial will be in Mosswood Cemetery, Cotuit.