Robert E. Diefenbach, 94, a ‘lifelong learner’ who raised 6 kids in Rye

Robert Elmer Diefenbach passed away peacefully at his home in Fort Myers, Fla., on June 13.

Robert and Ruth Diefenbach Contributed photo
Published June 27, 2024 5:18 PM
2 min read

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Robert Elmer Diefenbach passed away peacefully at his home in Fort Myers, Fla., on June 13.

He was born in New York City on May 4, 1930, to Mary Demarest and Elmer Gottlieb Diefenbach. Rob met and married the love of his life and best friend, Ruth DeNoyelles, in 1953, and they were happily married for 67 years.

Rob was a consummate gentleman and a serious thinker, with a quiet strength that guided his devoted family and inspired his many friends. He will be remembered for his integrity, compassion, and intellect.

Rob graduated from Phillips Academy Andover in 1948 and Princeton University in 1952, with a degree in Chemical Engineering. His studies continued at McGill University and NYU Graduate School of Business.  

After briefly working in the chemical industry, Rob pivoted to Wall Street. He enjoyed a long and successful career in investment management, capped by a 20-year tenure at John W. Bristol and Company.

Rob and Ruth raised their six children in Rye, N.Y., where they lived until 2001. They then split their time between homes on New York’s Upper West Side and on North Captiva Island and Fort Myers in Florida.  

His curiosity and passionate belief in lifelong learning led to many active roles in his communities. He was devoted to bringing art, particularly classical music, to wider audiences. Rob and Ruth also had a passion for adventure and traveled extensively together and with friends. They especially enjoyed their many summers in Scotland.

Over the years, Rob actively supported many organizations, including The Rye Free Reading Room, Andover, Princeton University, Fort Myers Community Concerts, the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center, and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.  He was a member of the University Club of New York, American Yacht Club, St. Charles Yacht Club, and a past member of the Safety Harbor Club and Manursing Island Club. 

Especially for his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, he was a pillar of strength and a compassionate counselor. Dief’s life will be celebrated by all who knew him.

Rob was predeceased by his beloved wife of 67 years, Ruth DeNoyelles Diefenbach, his brother Richard P. Diefenbach, and his son Robert E. Diefenbach Jr. He is survived by his brother John M. (Karen), his sister Mary Anne Sullivan (Eugene); his children E. Michael (Michele), David P. (Nina), Eric G. (James Keith Brown), Margaret D. Gray (Stuart), and Peter DeNoyelles; his grandchildren Robert E. III (Andrea McManus), Andrew J. (Shannon), Mark S., Edward Michael Jr., Colin C. (Veronica), Hilary A., Heather M. (Michael Call), Marissa (Evan Reap), Anna I., Rebecca A., Paul D., Taylor D., and Alex K. Gray; and his great-grandchildren Levi J., Otis H., Caroline R., Lily A., Olivia V., Eden A. Reap, and Braden M. and Sophia R. Call.

A celebration of Rob’s life will be planned at a future date.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Rob’s honor to:

Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center Chamber Music at https://www.sbdac.com/donations/ or Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra at https://swfl.vbotickets.com/donations/8101

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