Robert Fuller, 83

Director of Fine Arts at OPRF High School

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

Robert Scott Fuller, 83, died peacefully and comfortably on Sept. 13, 2019. Known by family and friends as "Bobby Scott" until college, he was born on Feb. 14, 1936 in Searcy, Arkansas to Lillian Faye and William Pope Fuller. A graduate of the Searcy High School class of 1954 and Hendrix College class of 1958, he earned an M.A. degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and, while there, attended the Julliard School of Music. At Juilliard, he studied under Israeli-born composer Abraham Kaplan, served as assistant director of the Collegiate Chorale, and often performed in the Chorale at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein, conductor. 

An accomplished pianist and choral director, he chose to leave New York and return to Arkansas, to teach choral music at Jonesboro High School for 14 years. He also served as choir director for First United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church. 

After teaching summer courses at Southern Illinois University, Fuller accepted the job of choral director at Oak Park and River Forest High School. He was later named director of the Fine Arts Department at OPRF, where he remained until his retirement. During that time, he founded the Heritage Chorale, a community choir for adults, which continues today. 

 A past-president of the Arkansas Choral Directors Association and the Illinois Choral Directors Association, Bob and his wife took his choirs from Jonesboro and OPRF on tour to perform in Europe every two years. Each tour always included a performance in Vienna, Austria, his favorite city. The couple would return to Vienna on their own, as often as possible. 

He was gifted in many ways that belied his physical handicap — walking with crutches after contracting polio in 1951 as a 10th-grade student. Throughout his life, he was an avid gardener, fisherman, and carpenter. His knowledge of music drew increasing numbers of students to his classes, but his playful sense of humor and kindness toward students of all abilities touched them even more. 

In that spirit, former students honored Bob by arranging a reunion performance in Oak Park and Jonesboro. The Oak Park reunion was called "Fuller Fest." Former students traveled from across the United States to practice all day, then perform a benefit concert for the community. No one wished to see the long weekend come to an end. Full of music, memories, and misty eyes, it was a wonderful tribute to a loved teacher and mentor. A scholarship has since been established in his name. 

Bob Fuller is survived by his wife, Anita Hart Fuller; his children, Christopher Scott (Tina Fuller) and Karen Harrison Fuller; his grandchildren, Madison Fuller Turner (Jonathan), Kennedy Blaise Keasler, Harrison Quinn Keasler, Zac Morgan, and Rheanna Morgan; and his brother, Bill (Cheryl) Fuller and sister, Ruth Ann Fuller. He was preceded in death by his parents and infant twin siblings. 

Sadly, Bob suffered from dementia in later years, but the Fuller-Fest poster remains on the wall in his home today. For anyone wishing to leave a memorial, please send it to the OPRFHS Alumni Association - Robert Fuller Opus Scholarship Fund. Donations may be sent to the Oak Park and River Forest High School Alumni Association, 201 N. Scoville, Oak Park, Illinois 60302. 

A private family celebration of life will be held later.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

8 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Ellen Boyer from Rancho Mirage  

Posted: October 3rd, 2019 5:04 PM

I was lucky enough to have taught and directed in the Fine Arts Dept. under Bob's guidance and example. He was an exceptional teacher; funny, kind and brilliant. He knew what was important, to give and get love. I am so fortunate that he was part of my formative life.

Karin Urban  

Posted: October 3rd, 2019 12:36 PM

Bob was an inspiration to every person he contacted. He was a wonderful colleague. Several of my students returned during college for a visit and commented that they had learned so much from Bob; in fact one, a music major, said he hadn't learned much so far in his college music classes. He had learned it all from Mr. Fuller. How lucky OPRF was to have Bob on its faculty. How lucky I was to know him.

Debbie Johnson LeGare from Elmhurst  

Posted: September 26th, 2019 6:54 PM

Bob Fuller was an inspirational man. I entered A Capella choir as a junior at OPRF. Bob introduced me to great choral literature-- Palestrina, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, and I was forever changed. I have spent my life singing with young people, because of his influence. I have never known a finer musician or a finer person that Bob Fuller. Choirs of angels sing for him in Heaven. We love you Mr, Fuller!

Bill Rohlfing from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: September 26th, 2019 10:41 AM

It wasn't until my senior year that I was welcomed into Bob Fuller's a capella choir. So many of the stories shared of Mr. Fuller including European tours I, regrettably, wasn't witness to. But what I can say of the precious little time I did experience as a member of Mr. Fuller's ensemble, is that it was clear (through the demonstration of his talents) this was a man who could have done whatever he wanted to do in the world of music. And he chose to be there with us high school kids. And he loved it. He's one of those people when you reflect back on life who stands out. Through all of us now, his spirit lives on. Thanks for sharing your gifts with us. God bless...

Winkie (aka Winkle) Ilic  

Posted: September 26th, 2019 9:57 AM

Along with the other commenters here, I was deeply influenced by Bob Fuller. For those of you who didn't know him, I am going to share a few examples of his character. The summer before my freshman year, I had my first encounter with Mr. Fuller as a girl in the chorus for The Sound of Music. We were learning the Latin chant that we "postulants" were going to sing and instead of "Dixit dominus domino meo", or something like that, he sang out, "Dixit dominus domino hold the mayo!" How can you not love a teacher who is that funny? But despite all his humor, he was serious and exacting. The most crucial skill for any musical ensemble to have is the skill of listening to each other. He taught us gorgeous music, gave us the privilege of being able to experience it as performersnot just as an audience. A quality performance was only possible by learning to listen to each other and watch him. And many of us know that without watching him, we could become a runaway train ( too many of us remember the "Drunken Sailor"). But we also watched him not just as a conductor, but as a person. He wanted us to have experiences. He wanted us to see, smell and taste what it was like in the parts of Europe where the composers of our music lived. He arranged for us to visit and perform in beautiful places, including in a little church one sunny Sunday morning in Austria. The choir loft was accessible only with steep, old stairs. He had to be carried up by two boys and later, back down. We always knew we loved him and that he was a beloved teacher, but at that moment, it was clear he was an extraordinary man. He used to remind us that the world was a much quieter place when our music was composed. It was worth stopping to ponder that and to try to imagine it. It still is. All of these gifts he gave us in abundance and we will carry them with us throughout our lives and pass them on to our students and children. Thank you, Mr. Fuller. We love you.

Paul Wagner from Hammond  

Posted: September 25th, 2019 5:08 PM

Bob's first comment to me on joining his choir class was "It's about time". He always advocated for his students and gave them the best possible environment for learning. Some teachers engage students. Some inspire students. Bob was a combination of all things a teacher could be. His class became a haven from the vicissitudes of high school life, where everyone was welcome and accepted for their individual gifts. It's something I try to follow in my own classrooms. I'm a better teacher for having been his student. As he goes to his rest, we make commemoration of him with the Song. Alleluia.

Julie Anderson  

Posted: September 25th, 2019 4:59 PM

How can I ever put in words all that Mr. Fuller meant to me! He was one of those rare humans who positively affected everyone who had the great fortune to know him. I am just one of thousands, but I've now taught hundreds of students myself and the lessons about life, love, and music that Mr. Fuller taught through his actions and words are ones I frequently and fondly hold up as ideals. His influence is far reaching and I believe will continue on for an eternity.

Bill Sullivan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 25th, 2019 4:15 PM

Bob Fuller was one of the most influential educators ever to serve this community. His teachings went so very far beyond just music. While he was an incredible musician and expert at pedagogy, he impacted thousands of young students with lessons about art and life that will never be forgotten. He was so beloved that OPRFHS alumni coordinated TWO reunion concerts for him just to have a few more chances to make musical magic under his direction. Bob will be remembered for his wit, artistry, humanism, compassion, courage, and fairness. He truly represented the best that OPRFHS had to offer during his tenure. May he Rest in Eternal Peace.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad