In Loving Memory

Robert Brooks Sawyer, Jr. d. Nov. 5, 2013



In Loving Memory

April 11, 1924 – November 5, 2013

American flag

Mobile, AL

Robert Brooks Sawyer, Jr., 89, a resident of Mobile, passed away on Tuesday, November 5, 2013, at his home. He was a veteran of WWII, US Air Force, serving as a gunner and radio operator on a B-17 bomber aircraft.  Later, he studied at the University of Michigan where he earned a Masters degree in music. He loved being a part of the music program there and enjoyed Michigan football, even becoming a dorm captain for the players.  Robert and his wife, Nyra were both music professors at Bethel College in Hopkinsville, Kentucky until the college closed in 1964.  It was then that he was asked to join the newly opened Mobile College, in Mobile Alabama.  There, he was professor of music, specializing in music theory, and retired after more than thirty years of teaching and service.  He was Organist and Precentor in the Episcopal Church for almost three decades, serving at Trinity Episcopal Church in Mobile, and St. Francis Episcopal on Dauphin Island.

Music was his passion and he loved sharing it with others.  He loved accompanying students at their recitals playing the organ, piano, and harpsichord.  He enjoyed teaching his students and working with church choirs, and built many strong and lasting friendships that exceeded far beyond the classrooms.

He attended, played and taught, at many music and church music seminars, and gave several piano recitals and organ concerts. Each year he played the organ and harpsichord with the music students at The Messiah Sing In.  His hobbies were building pipe organs, woodworking, green-thumbing, camping, and bike riding, especially in the mountains. He was responsible for many organ installations, tuning and upkeep of those beautiful instruments.  Above all his activities, he was extremely proud to have known and taught many of the fine musicians, organist, and pianists we enjoy today. Preceding him in death are his wife, Nyra Turbeville Sawyer, his sisters, Dorothy Sawyer Batten and Susan Eckerdite, his brothers, James Sawyer and Fran Sawyer, and his grandson, Nicholas Richard Sawyer.

He is survived by his daughter, Caroline Sawyer Ward, Mobile; his son Jesse Richard Sawyer and his wife, Karen Kavanagh Sawyer; two sisters, Ann Sawyer, and Mary Allen;  his brother, Buddy Sawyer; his brother-in-law, Dr. Robert W. Turbeville, his two grandsons, Robert Curtis Ward and Christopher Lee Ward.

The family is very grateful, and wishes to thank Roselyn White, who has assisted Mr. Sawyer and his daughter for the last year and a half, caring for his needs and final days.  She has become his other daughter here on earth. 

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at 2:30pm, Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1900 Dauphin St, in Mobile.  The family will receive friends at 1:30pm until service time.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to his grandson’s memorial, The Nicholas Richard Sawyer Memorial Fund, St. John’s Episcopal Church, 202 Gordon Drive, Decatur Alabama.  Notes of condolence may be expressed at  Arrangements are by Hughes Funeral Home & Crematory, 7951 American Way, Daphne, AL.


  1. Julia Burns

    Carolyn and family: My deepest sympathies are with your family. I will keep you in my prayers. It is always hard for someone we love to pass to heaven because we will miss them so much on earth; but, always remember our parents never really leave us because we are part of them equally. They forever remain in our hearts. God bless your family during this time and always forever after.

  2. June hope

    Robert was a very special man. One of a kind.

  3. Caroline Sawyer Ward

    Please feel free to “sign” this guestbook for my dad, sharing your thoughts and stories as you feel. C

  4. Noel Jackson

    I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of this distinguished gentleman. Caroline, you are in my thoughts and prayers. God speed, Mr. Sawyer ……………………………

    Noel Jackson

  5. Patrick Merchant

    Mr. Sawyer was a great musician and theory teacher. What I have done in the music ministry, I owe largely to him. He will be greatly missed by this minister/musician. My prayers are with his family during these days.
    Pat Merchant
    Huntsville, AL

  6. Katy Kavanagh

    The few occasions I spent time with Robert were memorable. He was so kind. Jesse, Karen and Caroline I want you to know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I love you all.

  7. Richard Williams

    There really aren’t adequate words to express what Robert Sawyer has meant to my life. He was my professor, my teacher, my friend. He was a character in the very best sense of the word. Colorful, opinionated, eccentric, and a person of tremendous integrity. I learned more than music from him. I learned life. I can still hear the way he would exclaim my name when he answered the telephone and realized it was me, and I will always remember that wonderful laugh. After our time as teacher/student, he asked that I call him Robert and I did for the many years of our friendship, but to me — in the back of my mind — he was always Mr. Sawyer. I suppose he always will be.

  8. Carol Sawyer Darrah

    to the Sawyer family

  9. Carol Sawyer Darrah

    I am so very sorry for the loss of uncle Bobby.My thoughts and prayers go out to you.I am Jim Sawyer’s daughter and Bobby was one year older than daddy would have been.We lost daddy in 2008

  10. Michele Maughon Whittington

    My prayers are with you. Mr. Sawyer was one of my favorite professors at Mobile College! I often tell my music students stories about Mr. Sawyer. He taught me well and I will forever be grateful.

  11. Mary Beth Brantley Lancaster

    I was a student of Mr. Sawyer at Mobile College during the late eighties/early nineties. He was a gifted music teacher who took me under his wing in music theory classes and organ lessons. He encouraged me to “think outside the box” regarding music — while still adhering to strict music rules, of course! His boyish grin and unique teaching techniques are still very fresh on my mind — And I am very grateful to him for the musical training and life lessons that he instilled in me. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time.

  12. Troy Duke

    I would like to extend my most sincere condolences to the Sawyer family on the passing of Mr. Sawyer. He has meant so much to many of us who were privileged to have known him. He was a great teacher, mentor, and friend to my wife Leanne Seale Duke and me while I was at Mobile College. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this time.

  13. Pamela Merritt

    Dear Caroline and family, I am so sorry for your loss. Mr. Sawyer was my mentor/professor 1974-1979. I graduated with a BA degree in Music (piano concentration). Like Richard W., I, too, learned much more than music from Mr. Sawyer. I, too, learned life. I will never forget the first day that I met him. I was intimidated, scared, fascinated, mesmerized, and knew that my life would change forever. College is filled with good and bad experiences. One devastating time came in my second year, during 8 AM music theory. I was called out of Mr. Sawyer’s class to learn that my father had died from a massive heart attack. He was 45 years old. My dad was my best friend. That was the worst experience of my life. Mr. Sawyer was very kind, but firm. I got an F in music theory that semester, but learned a tough life lesson. He helped me become a stronger person. He did, also, teach me a lot about music. I have been working and serving in the music industry for over 35 years as producer, director, musician (piano, voice, drama) and have worked in schools, theaters, and churches from Alabama to the great Northwest. Much of what I’ve done, I owe to Mr. Sawyer. My sincerest condolences. You are in my thoughts and prayers…

  14. George Aikens

    Mr Sawyer was always putting me on the spot in the classroom, but I loved it. He was an excellent instructor.
    Loved his class.
    Sorry it is two years later to find this.
    Loved him!


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