Obituary for Robert P. Moncreiff
MONCREIFF, Robert Philip
When Robert Moncreiff was 22 he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and left for his first trip abroad. His Oxford don encouraged him to travel and it was on one of his trips to Europe that he met Elisabeth Hohenauer, ("Liz") at the American Field Service library in Innsbruck. Rhodes scholars were not permitted to marry. The week Bob finished his studies, the two were married at Balliol College, Oxford and for the next 63 years, they were inseparable. They built a lovely life together in Cambridge.
Bob died on May 6th. He leaves behind his beloved wife and their three children: Anne Arrarte and her husband Carlos, Philip Moncreiff, and Jane Moncreiff and her husband Josh Passell. His seven grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren will also miss him dearly.
Robert Moncreiff was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1930, the son of Maxine (Emmert) and William Philip Moncreiff. When his father was called to serve at the Pentagon during World War II, the family moved to Washington DC. Bob graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and attended Yale where he was a member of the Aurelian Society, the Elizabethan Club, Scroll and Key and junior Phi Beta Kappa. After Oxford, Bob attended Harvard Law School and joined Palmer & Dodge in Boston where he worked until his retirement in 1995. He wrote a history for the centennial of the firm shortly after he retired.
During the late 1960s, Bob became involved in Cambridge politics. He served on the Cambridge City Council for two terms and Chaired The Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation in 1976. In an article written for the Harvard Crimson in 1973, he said (despite the cynicism of the Watergate era) "I think politics is a potentially noble thing to do, and I don't agree that it's dangerous for decent people. I do think it's worth getting involved."
He stayed involved with organizations he cared about: the Boston Conservatory, the Metropolitan Opera, the Youville Hospital, Yale and Oxford. He was pleased when Oxford asked him to represent the University when Jehuda Reinharz became president of Brandeis and happily he donned the appropriate gown.
Liz used to ask Bob how long he would be on a quest for self-improvement. The answer was "forever." Upon his retirement, he went back to Harvard for a masters degree in English literature, culminating in a thesis on Spenser. He wrote a study of the repeal of rent control in Cambridge which was published by the New England Journal of Public Policy at UMass, followed by a book on A. Bartlett Giamatti, of whom he was a long-time admirer, published by Yale University Press. In the last several years, he had started notes on the history of Plan E (proportional representation) in Cambridge.
He was an opera fanatic, a lover of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dante, and an enthusiast of 20th and 21st century political history. And of course, he cheered the Red Sox.
Toward the end of his life, he would often say how lucky a man he had been. When asked the secret of his long love affair with his wife, he replied simply "just look at her."
Family and friends are invited to gather and share memories on Monday, May 15th between 12:30pm and 2:30pm at the house of his daughter Jane, 19 Shattuck Road, Watertown. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in memory of Bob to the Boston Atheneum.