Robert Courtemanche, businessman loved greyhounds
Three greyhounds and their handlers greeted mourners at a memorial service held for Emerson College trustee Robert Courtemanche in First Parish Church in Weston. The gentle, leggy former racers, whose breed was prized by the Romans and Medieval kings of Europe, were one of Mr. Courtemanche’s favorites.
“He was a great friend of greyhounds,’’ said Louise Coleman, director of Greyhound Friends Inc., an organization that places the dogs in homes. “He was someone who was very emphatic in his opinions, and he was very emphatic about greyhounds. He loved them.’’
Mr. Courtemanche of Dover, a retired senior vice president at Wellington Management Co., died Aug. 21 in Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Cambridge of lung cancer. He was 72 and quit smoking decades ago, his family said. He was diagnosed in July.
As a boy, Mr. Courtemanche was not allowed to have dogs, according to his longtime companion, Marillyn Zacharis.
“His father said he wouldn’t take good care of one,’’ she said. “He proved him wrong. His house was a dog palace with dog beds and lots of chew toys.’’
Mr. Courtemanche had five greyhounds over the past 15 years. He also was a generous contributor to Hopkinton-based Greyhound Friends, Coleman said.
“He valued integrity and effort,’’ Zacharis said. “If he believed in something, he participated in it and contributed in various ways.’’
Born in Lawrence, Mr. Courtemanche grew up in Philadelphia. He attended seminary for a year as a teenager, he told friends, and later was awarded a scholarship to Harvard, from which he graduated in 1962.
He worked at Wellington Management, one of the largest investment management firms in the world, for 34 years. He retired in 2000 as senior vice president, securities analyst, and portfolio manager for institutional accounts.
His marriage to Betty Scott ended in divorce after more than 20 years. They had two sons.
Their younger son, Richard, who served in the Marines and received a master’s in business from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, died in 2005, following a two-hour standoff with police in Austin, Texas. An investigation found he shot himself after police shot him in the shoulder. He was 36 and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Mr. Courtemanche, who also was a trustee for the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, funded a garden bench as a memorial to his son. The bench sits under a tree known as a Forest Prince. A plaque reads: “Rest a while dear friend and enjoy this lovely garden where rests the spirit of my beloved son Richard.’’
Burial for Mr. Courtemanche was private, and a plaque to honor his memory is planned for a magnolia tree at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden next to the memorial bench for his son.
Mr. Courtemanche’s older son, Ted, who grew up in Sherborn and now lives in Dallas, recalled his father’s love of sports, especially football and hockey.
“I remember when he took me to a
His father blossomed in his retirement years and found a new sense of self-acceptance and fulfillment through volunteering and community involvement, he said.
A year ago, Mr. Courtemanche was elected to the Board of Trustees of Emerson College, where he chaired the school’s investment committee and was on the advisory board of the literary magazine Ploughshares.
“In the short year that Bob was with us at Emerson, he contributed substantially to the deliberations of the board of trustees on a wide range of issues, especially those involving finance,’’ M. Lee Pelton, the college’s president, said in a statement. “He had an engaging personality and made friends quickly. We will miss his friendship and expertise.’’
Mr. Courtemanche and Zacharis, who is a trustee at Emerson, became a couple 12 years ago after she asked him out.
“I needed a date for a party at the Four Seasons,’’ she said, adding: “I asked Bob and we just connected.’’
Mr. Courtemanche also supported The Center for Arts in Natick. Almost a decade ago he walked into the center one day and asked the staff what the organization did, according to founding board member Erica Ball.
“He decided right then and there he was going to become part of the thing. He left a generous check and volunteered two days a week in the box office,’’ Ball said. “He loved the community participation. He loved the fact things were alive in the community, and not just behind a TV screen. And he loved that young people could come here, learn, and participate.’’
J.M. Lawrence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.