Saying goodbye to Robert Nordlander

Robert Nordlander, 1932–2014

The Appleton Post-Crescent, a Wisconsin daily newspaper, called Robert Nordlander, who died at 82 on Dec. 11, 2014, “likely the most prolific letter writer in Post-Crescent history.” In fact, wrote Larry Gallup in a reminiscence about Nordlander, the paper inaugurated a “one letter per month” policy in Bob’s honor.

“With us, Nordlander’s most frequent topic was his atheism, which put him at odds with many of his readers,” Gallup added.

“We first got acquainted with Bob Nordlander as a result of his freethinking letters to the editor to The Capital Times in Madison in the 1970s,” recalls Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “Bob was one of our earliest members, joining FFRF before we went national in 1978, and was a regular at our earlier conventions held mainly in Wisconsin.”

He was a board member (state representative) of FFRF for many years, and coordinator of FFRF’s Atheist-Freethought Library for the Blind, devoting many hours of volunteer work reading books and issues of Freethought Today.

When the Internet came along, Bob took to it with a nonreligious passion, sending regular emails on religious and freethought topics to a large list of subscribers. “I will miss those daily nuggets in my inbox,” says FFRF co-president Dan Barker.

He was born June 17, 1932, in Neenah, Wis., the only son of Swedish immigrants. He lived in the area all his life. His obituary said his only biological family are cousins living in Sweden. He earned a B.A. in history with minors in political science, Spanish and French at the University of Minnesota and taught English, Spanish, history and French at various schools. He also ran as a Democrat for the state Assembly and on the Socialist-Labor Party ticket for the U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor.

In a “Getting Acquainted” piece published in Freethought Today in March 1984, Bob, a Korean War veteran, noted he served “four inglorious years in the United States Air Force,” where he wrote a history of the USAF flight Test School still in print. Bob was a great debunker of myths, including the myth that there are “no atheists in foxholes.”

He wrote that his first memory of religion was going to church and seeing “a very angry man in the pulpit who really scared the hell out of me.”

A memorial to celebrate his life was held Jan. 17 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton.

“He’ll be missed by us at FFRF, and his strong network of friends and organizations,” said Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation