Robert G. “Haas” Tobey, 87, died Sept. 11, 2022. Son of Hamlin and Kathrene Tobey, he was born in Toledo, Ohio on May 24, 1935, and raised in Oakland, Calif. and Landsdowne, Penn. He graduated from The College of Wooster (B.A. 1957), and Harvard University (M.S. 1958, Ph.D. 1967).
A born teacher and problem solver, Tobey made a life looking for answers to intriguing questions and encouraging others into conversation. Whether professionally or as a volunteer in the community, he saw every question, every problem, as a challenge and he accepted. He thrived on doing research, chewing over a puzzle, and achieving an elegant solution. As a mathematician and computer scientist he co-developed FORMAC, the first widely available programming language that allowed computers to do algebra; was the first Chair of the Department of Computer Science at Illinois Institute of Technology where he developed the B.S., B.A., M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. programs. He later moved into management consulting, and then personal growth consulting working as a coach and healer. Haas retired to Maine in 2010, volunteering his time and expertise to various organizations including Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, and the town of Damariscotta.
What started as a crush on horseradish and onions in the 1970s developed into serious gardening in the 2000s as he pursued a full-on love affair with garlic! In Damariscotta, Haas founded Emergence Farm, his permaculture homestead. It was here that he shared with his family and everyone he met his love of “real wealth” – healthy food grown with care in one’s own garden. His Christmas gift boxes were filled with “real wealth” – raspberry jams, elderberry tincture, peach preserves, and of course heads of garlic … and more garlic … and more garlic.
Woodworking was a lifelong hobby. He enjoyed a range of projects as each was a different challenge. He began by building knick-knack shelves for his mother in junior high, which were followed by home repairs to the Victorian house bought to house his young family, a kayak, carvings of birds, fish and butterflies, cookie trees, jewelry boxes, traveling toolboxes, floating shelves, puzzles, toy boats, trucks, and doll beds for the grandchildren, pig-shaped cutting boards, chopsticks, more home projects and bookcases, and finally, an applewood ladder. He loved sharing his workspace with children and grandchildren, passing on his techniques. His homes reflected his woodworking ingenuity. In Damariscotta, he created a woodworking shop from one bay of the garage. In Pennsylvania, he was especially proud of creating an archway, and a railing put together like a puzzle — only those who know the secret can successfully move furniture in and out of this second-floor barn space.
Among his Maine roots, Tobey’s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Ichabod Linscott, was the first millwright to build a dam at Damariscotta Mills. “In other words, we can blame the need for the fish ladder on him!”
Tobey is survived by his two ex-wives, Elisabeth F. and Puja; as well as four children, Elisabeth L. (Peter), Deborah, Robert (Lisa), Anne (Rogelio); and six grandchildren, Julia (Patric), John, Ethan, Kathrene, Roo, and Anna.
A true Eagle Scout, Haas believed in leaving a place better than how he found it: from diversifying the landscape to improving a building’s structure, to nurturing the soul.
As he said:
“My legacy is
in my children;
in my grandchildren;
in the life transformations my clients and I have achieved together;
in the communities I have helped ‘come into unity’ and grow more resilient.”
Tobey was laid to rest privately during a green burial at the Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington.
Anyone wishing to make a gift in memory of Haas may send a contribution to: MOFGA Maine Heritage Apple Orchard or MOFGA Buildings & Grounds via P.O. Box 170, Unity, ME 04988 (mofga.org); or Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust via P.O. Box 333, Damariscotta, ME 04543 (coastalrivers.org/get-involved/make-a-tribute-gift/).
Arrangements are under the direction and care of the Strong-Hancock Funeral Home at 612 Main St., Damariscotta, ME 04543. Condolences, and messages for his family, may be expressed by visiting stronghancock.com.