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Robert Anthony Lavelle

January 1, 1970 - March 27, 2010

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LAVELLE, ROBERT ANTHONY, age 55, died on March 27, 2010, in Holliston, Mass., of brain cancer. Mr. Lavelle was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 11, 1954, to Mildred (Matia) and Joseph Lavelle. He had lived in New England since 1973.

Mr. Lavelle graduated summa cum laude from the University of Rhode Island. Social justice was an overarching theme of his life, and he expressed this commitment in his career. He studied at the Radcliffe Publishing Program and worked at SolarVision and Harper & Row before becoming a senior editor at Addison-Wesley. In the early 1980s, he joined Blackside, Inc., in Boston, where he worked closely with executive producer Henry Hampton and served as vice-president. At Blackside, he worked on several acclaimed documentary projects, including Eyes on the Prize, considered to be the authoritative television history of the civil rights movement . Mr. Lavelle edited and produced numerous companion books for these projects, including America’s New War on Poverty: A Reader for Action; The Great Depression: America in the 1930s; Eyes on the Prize and many others. He also wrote poetry, stories, book reviews, and personal essays.

Mr. Lavelle later co-founded Roundtable, Inc., where he produced documentaries, new media, and books for eight years. In 2007, he joined Facing History and Ourselves as director of publishing.

A talented guitarist and music lover, he met his wife, Hannah Benoit, in 1974 in a night-school course on the symphony. Music remained one of their many bonds throughout their 32-year marriage. With their son Mischa and daughter Emelia, they enjoyed the adventure of travel and made house exchanges with families in England, Ireland, Belgium and France.

Mr. Lavelle was a devotee of Henry David Thoreau, a student of nature and an avid hiker who revered the New England landscape. He once told a friend, “Whenever I am feeling down, I walk in the woods until I see something remarkable.”

In addition to his wife and children, he leaves his mother, Mildred, his brothers, Joseph and John, and his sister, Kathleen Lavelle Bennis, of Ohio, 13 nieces and nephews, and countless friends. A memorial service will take place on May 15, 2010, at the Unitarian Universalist Area Church in Sherborn, Mass. Donations in his memory may be sent to the National Brain Tumor Society (www.braintumor.org), or trees may be planted in his name through a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org).