We recognize the life of Dr. Robert “Bob” Drye, a psychiatrist and longtime Tempe resident, who died suddenly mid-day Monday, April 28,  at his home in Tempe. His family said he had made himself a sandwich and collapsed and died. He has suffered from bronchial issues.   Emergency medical folks were there in 10 minutes after he was found, but he was pronounced dead.  Sort of that swift death many of us would want some day.  Bob was 86.

I first met Bob Drye in 1994 when he joined University Presbyterian Church in Tempe.  A number of us from that church served on the board of directors of Presbyterian Service Agency, a mental health provider largely serving Maricopa County (now PSA Behavioral Health Agency with services across the southern half of the state).  I was in my 7th year on the board and my first year as board president.  We invited Bob, with his credentials, to join our board.  He immediately proved to be a valuable voice of knowledge and experience on the board.  After three years as president in 1998, I gave way to Bob as our board leader.  He served as president through 2002, left the board in 2005, returned in September 2010 and retired in January 2013.

Our homes were 3/4th mile apart, and we often rode together to mental health board meetings. We covered the spectrum of issues, mostly politics.  Bob was a very active Democratic Party member and had served as a State Democratic Committeeman.  He closely watched the emergence of new candidates for public office, and he took time to know the field of candidates and party workers.

Bob earned his medical degree in 1951 from New York University.  He would practice psychiatry in Chicago, California and Pennsylvania.  He was once chairman of a National Institutes of Mental Health Psychiatric Training Committee and was a Life Fellow of the American Academy of Psychiatry.  He told me he had been a friend of the late Dr. Benjamin Spock, the iconic pediatrician whose common-sense theories of child care helped guide parents around the world for a half century.   For a time, Bob was an assistant professor at the University of Arizona Medical School.

Bob was a longtime member of University Presbyterian’s Social Justice and Peacemaking Committee, a determined group of church members who meet monthly to discuss local, national and global issues, including rights, environment, peace and fostering positive change in a troubled world.  He served as its chairman in 2001 while on Session. He wrote a lengthy summary of that year for the church’s annual report, noting efforts of participating in the Faith Works Event on Poverty, attending a Ramadan supper at the Islamic Cultural Center, sending a couple to the National Peacemaking Conference in North Carolina and ongoing support of such programs as Habitat for Humanity, Paz de Cristo homeless kitchen and outreach to lawmakers on mental health funding and the scandalous Alternate Fuel car-sale catastrophe.

For many years Dr. William Raby and I took turns teaching the Contemporary Issues class at University Presbyterian on Sunday mornings, and Bob was a loyal attendee contributing to the conversations.    During the church’s  prayer time in which people typically stand and share prayer concerns, or sometimes joy, Bob often stood and asked prayers for his current or former patients dealing with onerous issues.  He frequently told the joys of new grandchildren or marriages in his family.

In 1997, after my mother died at age 87 in Iowa, we brought my 85-year-old father to Tempe. In March 1998, Bob, who had organized a Grief Support Group, attended the American Academy of Bereavement Conference in Tucson.  He invited anyone dealing with family loss to the gatherings.  My father found it enormously valuable.  I had to apologize a number of times to Bob for my father often dominating sessions — conversationalist that he was.  Bob served three years as  a church deacon (1996, 1997 and 1998) and three years as an elder on the Session (2000, 2001 and 2002).

For a number of years, ending about three years ago,  Bob was a front-counter clerk at the Tempe Main U.S. Post Office at College Drive and Southern Avenue, selling stamps, taking packages and fetching certified letters.   He had a wonderful smile for customers.

Our prayers and thoughts are with his devoted partner of 20 years, Neria Ryder, and Bob’s far-flung family.

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