Town Fixture Bob Houghtaling Dies Unexpectedly

by | Dec 9, 2023

Above: Bob Houghtaling addresses the audience at the Dec. 4 Learn365RI event at Town Hall 

His official job was substance abuse counselor; his real role was town heart

UPDATE 4:15 p.m. 12/9/23: Swift Community Center will be open from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. for people to be together. It is very informal but all are welcome.

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023 – Bob Houghtaling died Friday after a brief illness, town officials confirmed Saturday. He was 69. The news has shocked the community that Houghtaling served for 41 years. As the East Greenwich substance abuse coordinator, he created programs in and outside of the schools for youths and adults. 

Over the years, EG News has written many articles about Bob’s work as well as posting his many poems and essays. Houghtaling served on the board of East Greenwich News from 2017-18. This article from 2020 offers a good view into his work and role here in town. His last official public event (of the hundreds and hundreds he’d organized over the past four decades) was at Town Hall last Monday (12/4/23). You can read about it HERE.

Supt. Brian Ricca alerted EGSD families to the news Saturday, and included this:

The principals at our buildings to connect with their individual student support teams to identify how they want to be prepared to welcome students back to this reality on Monday. While I don’t know what that will look like, I assure you that we will be ready for our kiddos. 

We will share more information as it becomes available.

You can find a remembrance about Bob HERE.

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Renu Englehart
Renu Englehart
December 9, 2023 2:02 pm

Bob was so important to me and this community. He is an amazing and generous person with his time and guidance. This is such a huge loss for our town

Priscilla Welsh
Priscilla Welsh
December 9, 2023 2:26 pm

Just took a break in my day to check my email and found this notification of Bob’s passing. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. What a good, good man. He will be so deeply missed by the entire EG community and beyond. RIP, Bob.

Jo Abella
Jo Abella
December 9, 2023 2:31 pm

Such sad news. He was a wonderful person and a great friend to so many students and people in East Greenwich.

Betsey Peloso
Betsey Peloso
December 9, 2023 2:43 pm

I’m so sad to see this news! I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob for the Pendulum during an innovative anti drug event at Cole several years ago. His dedication, kindness, and accessibility Was evident immediately. He is certainly gone too soon and our town will miss his continuing impact but feel his legacy.

Bruce
Bruce
December 9, 2023 3:01 pm

Just talked to Bob Thursday. I had convinced him to come back for one more Wall of Honor ceremony. We were supposed to meet next week. The news came as a great shock.
Bob was a tremendous asset to the Wall of Honor. I will miss his input, wisdom and encouragement plus his ” sports talk.” He was an asset to EG.
RIP>
Bruce

Jean Ann Guliano
Jean Ann Guliano
December 9, 2023 3:20 pm

Words are difficult because it’s still hard to believe. Bob truly touched thousands of lives over his career and he did it one person at a time. All of our lives were made better for knowing him, volunteering for him, listening to him or reading one of his articles. He was a genuine force for good. God bless his beloved family. Rest in peace my dear friend.

Elaine Vespia
Elaine Vespia
December 9, 2023 4:20 pm

So very sad and shocked to hear of Bobs passing. I’ve known Bob for many years. He will most certainly be missed by many 😥

Joe LaPlante
Joe LaPlante
December 9, 2023 4:22 pm

May He Rest In Peace. When I was a reporter I had the pleasure several times to interview Bob and more times just to share our mutual love of Bobby Kennedy. EG was lucky to have him and the town will benefit from the legacy of his good works.

Wendy Schmidle
Wendy Schmidle
December 9, 2023 5:00 pm

This is such sad and breathtaking news. I had the privilege to work with Bob for many years. He was a kind and generous soul. What a wonderful leader for the community, he will be missed. May peace be with his family and may Bob rest in peace.

Paulette Miller
Paulette Miller
December 9, 2023 5:13 pm

Bob made the world, and East Greenwich, a better place because of his compassion and the generous sharing of time, experience, skills, and love of community. He was always available, friendly, and helpful. I am shocked and saddened by this news. May his memory be a blessing.

Diane Dufresne
Diane Dufresne
December 9, 2023 6:51 pm

Bob & I started our counseling careers together at PACS in 1985…he was so genuine, bright & funny…loved him, such a great person….a tragic loss to us all…

Jeff Rinn
Jeff Rinn
December 9, 2023 6:58 pm

I am stunned and saddened beyond words to know that Bob passed. I feel lucky to have known Bob for more than forty years, and honored to work with him while with the police department. He was the “pied piper” of East Greenwich, continually bringing people together for a common purpose, and always present in time, word, and action for all of the youth in the community. With Lt. Tom Joyce, the three of us made an odd group of “musketeers”, but Bob always found ways to make it work.
Emerson once said: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and loved well. He must have had Bob in mind because no one has been more useful, honorable, and compassionate. Thousands of East Greenwich children and their families were the better for his having “lived and loved well”!
To his wife Elaine, his sister Elaine, and his children Nicole and Alex, my prayers are with you all.
Jeff Rinn

Susan Oclassen
Susan Oclassen
December 10, 2023 1:25 pm
Reply to  Jeff Rinn

Amen; Bob was the gentle, humble, giving heart of this town. He supported and empowered our children in so many ways. He encouraged the formation of various teen and other groups, all of which fostered communication and community-building. We are shocked and tremendously saddened to lose everyone’s friend.

Joelle Perrone
Joelle Perrone
December 9, 2023 8:45 pm

I’m shocked beyond words, while at the same time feeling so blessed to have known this wonderful man. Bob, you will be missed eternally. There is a hole in the heart of EG now that you’re gone. Thank you for helping my family, thank you for your mere presence in our lives. Your soul went straight to Heaven, I have no doubt! Rip, my friend!

Mar Louise Formisano
Mar Louise Formisano
December 9, 2023 9:22 pm

I’m so fortunate to have known Bob and worked with him on a few community projects; always meaningful.

My friend Heather and I were talking and she said it, he *saw everyone* … everyone was seen by Bob Houghtaling.

I want to emulate that. I want to try in my minuscule way to see everyone I encounter in honor of that large man.

Rest in peace dear Bob Houghtaling.

larry tocci
larry tocci
December 9, 2023 10:48 pm

as a former chair of the juvenile hearing board having worked alongside bob over the ten years served & as a parent who came to know him decades earlier i can say without hesitation east greenwich has lost one of its greatest community servants. devoted. dedicated. on call days nights weekends…unassuming in his presence with a smile that could light up main street he could with little effort find the positive in someone where others could not. a true gentleman he gave so much but asked for so little. he was a monument of a man.

caryn corenthal
December 9, 2023 10:55 pm

Bob was a pillar of our community who embodied the spirit of a compassionate mayor and a cherished friend to all. In the tapestry of our town, Bob was the thread that wove us together. His boundless energy reached out to everyone, especially the troubled youth, guiding them towards brighter paths. Bob’s legacy extends beyond mere deeds; he initiated clubs that became beacons of unity and camaraderie. His warmth and kindness were the glue that held us close, creating a town where friendship and respect flourished. As we bid farewell, the void lefty his absence echoes the deep love and respect our community held for his remarkable soul. Bob will be sorely missed, his memory forever etched in the heart of a town that’s truly blessed to have known him.

Jayne Donegan
Jayne Donegan
December 9, 2023 11:50 pm

So sad to hear this news. Bob helped so many kids and gave so much to the community. He will be missed.

Paul Langhammer
Paul Langhammer
December 10, 2023 2:20 am

Two of my kids told me separately today. I asked “are you sure it wasn’t his dad,” who died quite recently. But no…. As Jeff mentioned earlier, Bob certainly lived a compassionate and useful life. My whole family considers him to be as good as we get. So pleased to know him, to see what he has done for us all in the community. RIP.

David Amirsadri
David Amirsadri
December 10, 2023 9:37 am

I must confess, this news absolutely blindsided me—I had a phone conversation with Bob only a week or two prior. I am truly heartbroken. Bob was a wonderful man who did so many positive things for the community. 

I’ve known Bob since my elementary school days. Whether in Philosophy Club, in casual conversations in the hallways of EGHS, or during his Saturday coffee hour at his beloved Felicias’s Coffee—a conversation with Bob was always a treat. His intellect and kindness was evident in every exchange, and I look back fondly on our moments together. Bob’s passion for history, philosophy, and literature was evident. Whether in conversations about history, current events, or day-to-day life, Bob was always keen on relating our present moment to our past.

I was fortunate to shoot a series of videos with him during my senior year of high school, the “Magical History Tour,” in which we visited various historical sites in East Greenwich and discussed their past and present. Bob has touched the lives of so many students, parents, and teachers with his outreach in the mental health field. He always stressed the importance of mental health, resilience, and meaning in teaching and learning. Recently, Bob was instrumental in supporting students, teachers, and parents during the COVID crisis and its aftermath. It is truly heartbreaking that he has left us when his kindness, perspective, and outreach are needed now more than ever. 

I will truly miss our time together. I wish his family and friends peace during this difficult time. Rest In Peace Bob—know that your legacy will live on.

Steve Mendes
Steve Mendes
December 10, 2023 11:22 am

Bob was a dear dear friend, confidant and kindred spirit. He cast light and banished darkness for countless people in their time of greatest need. I’ve never seen such deep empathy and keen insight given so thoughtfully and with such understanding and restorative power. His was a healing voice of compassion and reason from a place of true caring. His life was devoted to helping others navigate through and out of life’s most difficult passages. Bob was truly a guardian angel to the community of East Greenwich. To me he was the big brother I always wished I had – confidant, voice of reason, philosopher – someone who could explore big ideas and mutually share life’s biggest challenges. The sheer good in Bob was something that could rekindle hope at times if greatest need for so many of us individually but also for our EG community and beyond. I could not be more fortunate and blessed to have known such a good, good man as Bob Houghtaling. Thank you brother.

Adrienne Girard
Adrienne Girard
December 10, 2023 12:03 pm

I’m so sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. In the short time I knew him, I learned how amazing he was and what an impact he had on all the people of EG. He will be missed.

Eugene Quinn
December 11, 2023 9:34 am

I remember being very grateful to Bob 25 years ago for his work running the youth center. He leaves an incredible legacy and will be sorely missed.

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