1921 – 2018

Fort Collins – Robert Avery Geller passed away on September 23, 2018 peacefully in his home at the age of 97. He was born on his family farm near Dalton, NE on July 3, 1921, one of 5 children of Flo and Frank Geller. He attended a one-room school, graduated from Dalton High School at the age of 15 and from Hasting College, Hastings NE in 1942 with a degree in economics. He then attended McCormick Seminary in Chicago, IL, receiving a Masters of Divinity in 1946. In 1944 he married his wife of 69 years, Dorothy June Green of Hastings, NE, a singer and violinist by training. Rather than parish ministry, the Gellers chose to work in rural West Virginia for the Presbyterian Board of National Missions in the West Virginia Mountain Project serving two small coal mining camps. In 1949 he began a life-long calling in university ministry at Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, OK. In 1955 he began a seven-year ministry at the University of Arizona in Tucson where he was also Associate Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church and played a seminal role in the establishment of Ghost Ranch in 1955, the Presbyterian study and conference center in Abiquiu, NM. In 1962, Bob became the Director of United Campus Ministry at Colorado State University in Fort Collins where he served until his retirement in 1990. In his early years in Fort Collins, he served as an Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church and also began a 35-year ministry with the Woodward Governor Company. In 1972 he received a Masters in Sacred Theology from Dubuque Theological Seminary, with special training at the Menninger School of Psychiatry. Bob was a life-long learner, leading a Friday morning Book Group in fort Collins that has continued for 51 years. Bob’s calling took the Gellers to West Africa in 1961 for a one-year position with the Student Christian Movement in Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone and the University of Liberia in Monrovia, and to Christchurch, New Zealand in 1976 as the director of a counseling center. New Zealand became Bob and June’s favorite home away from home, returning there for four different terms of supply ministry in Otaki and elsewhere in the north island. He created lasting relationships with many families over the decades, presiding over marriages, baptisms, and funerals from generation to generation. Bob’s ministry was known widely for its rich and inclusive spirituality, its in fatigable pursuit of creating “heaven on earth” via active personal engagement in the great social and political movements of the 20th century – civil rights for people of color and the LGBT community, anti-war, peace and nuclear disarmament. Bob’s campus ministry with students was known for its inclusive spirituality and its community engagement, and had the reputation of being a happening place with weekly coffee houses, Agape dinners and service projects that ranged from fort Collins to native American lands in Arizona, around the Rocky Mountain west and the plains states. His ministry was also profoundly place-based, acting as a magnate for those committed to making Fort Collins a more healthy and compassionate community. The long list of community-based organizations whose formation was welcomed into the basement of the United Campus Ministry, now renamed the Geller Center, reads like a top forty of spiritually based progressive organizations: Women’s Crisis Center, Volunteer Clearing House, Foreign Students Center at CSU, Fort Collins Food Bank, Fort Collins Interfaith Counsel, Black Student Services, Student AA and Al-Anon groups, Buckingham Neighborhood House, the Andersonville Viva House, Draft Information and Counseling Center, Quakers Meeting, International Center, the Point Drug and Alcohol Center, Community Service for Offenders, the Religious Movement Resource Center for Dangerous Cults and Hate Groups, Twelve Step Movement for Gambling and Sexual Addiction, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the first Student Daycare Center in Married Student Housing, Hillel Ministry at CSU for Jewish students, the Lazarus Tomb Coffee House, Alternative Spring Breaks and the first hospice program at Poudre Valley Hospital. Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Flo and Frank Geller of Dalton, NE, four siblings, his wife June, and his youngest son, Victor. He is survived by his daughter Gretchen, son-in-law Butch Gerbrandt and granddaughter Lew Yong Gerbrandt of Butte MT, his son Mark Geller and daughter-in-law Kris of Orlando, FL, and his son Timothy Geller of Stockbridge, MA. A celebration of Bob’s life will be held on Sunday, October 28, 3pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins. Family and friends may sign the online guestbook or leave a personal note to the family at www.allnuttftcollins.com.

 

Published in The Coloradoan from Oct. 27 to Oct. 28, 2018