Robert Baxter Pilsbury

  • Born: December 28, 1926
  • Died: May 12, 2020
  • Location: Bedford formerly of Sudbury, Massachusetts

Concord Funeral Home

Director - Glenn D. Burlamachi, CFSP
74 Belknap St.
Concord, MA 01742
Tel. (978) 369-3388

Tribute & Message From The Family

Robert Baxter Pilsbury passed away peacefully on May 12, 2020, in Bedford, MA. He was 93 years old. The beloved son of Elmer Knapp Pilsbury and Frances Baxter Pilsbury, Bob was raised in Newton, MA. He attended Newton High School, Dartmouth College, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.

Bob was born into a musically talented family. Following in the footsteps of his father and his cousin Jack Gilbert, he was a natural-born piano player. At family gatherings, all three would play one after the other, each with his own improvisation on popular tunes past and present.

During his freshman year at Dartmouth he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He attended Officer Candidate School and served as a Lieutenant during the Korean War. Serving with valor, he fought in some of the bloodiest battles of that war and earned three Bronze Stars. But music was never far from his mind. During his time serving his country, he was stationed in the Philippines and established a fifty-piece marching band.

After his graduation from Dartmouth, he studied Music Education at the New England Conservatory of Music, and later earned a Master's Degree in Education, with a focus on the psychology of learning, from Harvard's Graduate School of Education. During these years, he also played a growing part in the jazz scene in Boston, playing with leader Leroy Parkins, Casimir "Cas" Brosky, Dick Wetmore, John Ronscheim, and veteran jazz drummer Tommy Benford in the Excalibur Jazz Band at the Savoy in Boston and at Southward Inn in Orleans, MA, and later with Cas and Dick at Jazz Village in Boston. And he played with many other fine musicians, including clarinetist Hamilton "Ham" Carson, a life-long friend. He also played for Odetta, Joan Baez and Jimmy Rushing. He played with the Dick Creeden Jazz Band, sat in with Willie "The Lion" Smith in Stuyvesant, NY and was the intermission pianist at Jimmy Ryan's NY Jazz Club. It was during this time that he became a consummate professional Jazz piano player. Music was his passion.

Bob and Peter Bullis were classmates at Dartmouth. Peter's invitation to join the New Black Eagle Jazz Band would define the major part of his musical life. The Black Eagles released over forty recordings and videos, earned a Grammy nomination, and traveled the United States and other parts of the world playing their own unique version of the great American musical art form, Jazz. Bob also released multiple solo recordings with Black Eagle and other jazz music friends, and played with other jazz bands, most often with the Alamo City Jazz Band.

He loved music — and he loved people, so he dedicated another portion of his life to his psychotherapy practice. He was an addict himself. After he stopped using, with the enduring help of 12-step Programs, he helped others with their own addictions and life struggles.

He was that rare person who made his professional life doing what he loved. And now he lives on in the lives of those he loved and all those who loved him. His favorite song was "When I Leave the World Behind" by Irving Berlin, and one of the lines in that song is "I'll leave them each a song…" He has left us many.

Survivors include his wife Cora Brown Pilsbury, and former wife Ruth Morris Pilsbury; his sons Adam (Ruth) Pilsbury of Huntersville, NC, and Seth (Becky) Pilsbury of Ashburnham, MA; his step-son and step-daughter Colin Brown of Sudbury, MA and Lindsay (David) Kramer, of Trenton, ME; his grandchildren, Louise Pilsbury, of Mooresville, NC, Samuel Pilsbury and Jacob Pilsbury, of Huntersville, NC; Jessica Cowgill, of Framingham, MA; Emily Pilsbury of Ashburnham, MA; step-grandchildren Holly Brown, of Sudbury, MA and Marley Kramer of Trenton, ME. Also surviving are devoted nephews Andrew (Evangelia) Tomczak and Stephen (Mary Ellen) Tomczak. His sister, Sally Pilsbury Tomczak, formerly of Yalesville, CT, preceded him in death, as did Stanley Tomczak, his brother-in-law.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Condolence & Memory Journal

Bob was one of a kind and special to so many across so many walks of life. I am grateful to have been able to be in the rooms where the miracle happens some of the time he graced us with his presence. He helped so many of us with his words and humor and nonjudgmental love and acceptance. Let us hope we can carry on his example.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous    May 28, 2020

Bob was my cousin by marriage. I introduced him to my closest relative Coco. They got married. Bob and I were good friends for many years. Every year he sent me an AA anniversary card. This year was 40 years clean and sober for me. Besides being a very talented Jazz musician he was kind and available. We shared the custody of a troubled teen for about 2 years. Bob had a lot of patience. May he Rest In Peace with God and all the other great musicians that have passed away. Bob had a good long fruitful life with many successes. I wish he could have met my husband who he would have loved. He would have been pleased to see how well my life has been the last 10 years.

Posted by Joan Houghtaling - Mountain Rest, SC - Family   May 27, 2020

I first met Bob when working in the kitchen at the Village Green in Danvers, MA. Just sixteen years old and learning to play piano, Bob was a great influence and mentor spending many hours with with me teaching me the stride piano style. He turned me on to so many great stylists including Fats Walker, Joe Sullivan, Earl Hines and Dave McKenna. I'm feel so blessed to have known him and think of him often. Rest In Peace Bob

Posted by Bob Putnam - Colleyville, TX - Friend   May 25, 2020

Dearest Papa Bob. I will never forget watching you play piano in the 70's when I was a student at Framingham State and would go with colleagues to see the band. Then you married by beloved Cora, and you became a treasured Papa to me and my family. I will miss you terribly. I will miss you giving me a medallion for my years of sobriety from your collection. Godspeed Papa your piano in heaven now and keep the angels singing. Love Ann

Posted by Ann Killion - Northboro, MA - Daughter   May 21, 2020

As a fellow musician, human being, and friend, I think about Bob often and will miss him greatly. My warmest regards are extended to all his family and friends.
I first met Bob in the Fitchburg area where my wife and I resided for the first 40 years together.
I got to witness the good that was Bob and the good he openly shared with all of mankind-- he will be deeply missed.

Posted by Phil Nurmi - Milford, NH - friend   May 21, 2020

So many memories after 40 odd years I played with Bob and the Black Eagles as well as being the drummer on his many Friends of Bob Pilsbury recordings. I will miss him and hereby express my condolences to Cora, his kids and the entire family. Bob had some addictions and telephonitis was one of them. I remember helping him collect coins during European tours so he could make daily calls to the USA. But most of course I remember Bob as the piano player of the Black Eagles and fellow rhythm section musician. He cannot and will not be forgotten considering the large number of recordings. Huguet will always be grateful for the letter of recommendation to be admitted to law school. May he rest in peace now that he has left this world behind. Cornelis Pam & Huguet Pameijer, Palm City Florida.

Posted by Cornelis H. Pameijer - Palm City, FL - Friend   May 19, 2020

I will miss you Bob at our Family Lunches in the Dining Hall in Unit 2B at the BEDFORD Veterans Hospital, and all the Fun Party Events in the Common Room.
Such a Handsome and Distinguished looking man, and how Debonaire you looked Styling in your Music Notes Scarf.
You will be missed. RIP

Posted by Margaret (Peggy) Bukoski - Stoneham, MA - Friend   May 19, 2020

I am so sorry for your loss. I and my classmates of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital School of Nursing Class of 1970 remember him very fondly. My classmates and I are sharing our time with him. Always wearing a bow tie, sometimes his socks did not match but always inspiring us to care for our mental health and those of our
patients. A life well lived. We are celebrating our 50th year reunion and thinking of him.

Posted by Barbara Ryan - Medway, MA - Acquaintance   May 18, 2020

It was a rare privilege to know Bob and have the opportunity to play with him when he joined the Alamo City Jazz Band at jazz festivals and other events. He and Cora were good friends to our band family.

Posted by Larmon & Becky Maddox - Austin, TX - Friend   May 18, 2020

Posted by Linda strong - Family   May 17, 2020

I'll never forget Bob's rendition of Fats Waller's "You're Not the Only Oyster in the Stew."

Posted by Eli Newberger - Lenox, MA - Coworker   May 17, 2020

I've known Bob since the 1950s and have followed him on the piano with the Black Eagle Jazz Band. So sorry that he died, but so glad that he lived! I'm "walking in the footsteps of those who've gone before."

Posted by Herb Gardner - Norwood, MA - Friend   May 17, 2020

So sorry for your loss Mr.Pilsbury was my psych teacher at Newton Wellesley School of Nursing. Loved his music! 50yrs ago

Posted by Kathleen (Figueiredo) Hamel - Bedford, MA - Student   May 17, 2020

I am so sorry to hear of Bob's passing. He was a great friend and mentor. I remember him best as a member of a peer supervision group in the eighties when we were both fairly new at managing recovery and helping others. It also turned out that we were all musicians although Bob was the most celebrated! His spirit will live on with me in both music and therapy.

Posted by Melinda Stewart - Groton, MA - Friend   May 17, 2020

Family Album