R. Robert Fleming
Ocean City prosecutor
March 11, 2003
R. Robert Fleming, 60, municipal prosecutor for Ocean City, NJ, who was
known for his humor and goodwill, died of cardiac arrest Wednesday while on
a sailing vacation with his daughter in Belize.
As the Shore town's top attorney for 13 years, Mr. Fleming handled cases that involved traffic violations, domestic squabbles, and some drug infractions.
He helped the municipal court operate efficiently and fairly, Mayor Henry "Bud" Knight said.
Mr. Fleming, who was born in Philadelphia, graduated from Germantown Academy in 1960 and earned a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Yale University in 1964.
A Vietnam veteran, he served in the Navy aboard the destroyer Borie. When he returned from the war, he enrolled in Villanova University School of Law, graduating in 1973.
Mr. Fleming then moved to Ocean City to be near the water and join his parents, who had moved there. He went into private practice, focusing on matrimonial, municipal, and real estate law.
He married Mimi Murphy in 1978.
In 1989, he was appointed Ocean City prosecutor.
"He was the guy in the county who took the new attorneys under his wing and introduced them around," said Dorothy McCrosson, president of the Cape May County Bar Association. "Anyone could consult with him about any kind of problem. He was the one you called up just to talk it out."
Mr. Fleming was a trustee and past president of the county bar association, and was named professional lawyer of the year in 1999. Often called by his Internet alias, "RMelf," he was known as a jokester who regularly e-mailed funny stories to a long address book of friends, colleagues, and family.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Fleming is survived by a son, Conor, a daughter, Catherine, and a brother.
Friends may call after 9 a.m. tomorrow at St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church, 13th Street and Wesley Avenue, Ocean City, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Burial will be in Seaside Cemetery, Palermo, NJ.
Memorial donations may be made to the R. Robert Fleming Scholarship in care of the Cape May County Bar Association, Box 425, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210.
by Sam Francis, his Yale roommate
Sometime in the early morning hours of March 5, 2003, while anchored off the tiny, deserted Queen Cayes in the remotest part of Belize's great barrier reef, we lost our great friend and shipmate Bob Fleming. While sleeping alone in the cockpit, he suffered cardiac arrest and never awakened.
Bob was one of the mainstays of our annual sailing cruises. He loved the
sea, the adventure of bareboat sailing, and the camaraderie that develops
when 8 diverse people are thrown together on a small boat. He had sailed
with us out of St. Martin in 1996 and Newport in 1998 (both with Mimi),
along the French Riviera and Corsica in 2000 (with Catherine), in the
Grenadines in 2001 (with Conor), in Tahiti in 2002, and in Belize in 2003
(again with Catherine).
None of us ever met anyone else remotely like him, nor expect to. His comic genius was awe-inspiring ― relentless, irrepressible, rapid-fire, instinctive, self-deprecating, kaleidoscopic. He never took anything seriously (least of all himself), but he took everything seriously. He was, at once, a jester and a wise man. He knew that life was a comedy, designed to be enjoyed to the hilt, and that life was a serious and difficult business, requiring struggle and persistence and mutual support.
His love for his family was deep, though it was not in his nature to express it, at least to others. And his longtime shipmates loved him, though if they had ever told him so, the response would have been immediate and predictable.
The evening before his last night, the crew gathered in the cockpit to play an uproarious word game. Bob was center-stage, goading, cracking wise, playing with words, never allowing a serious moment to gain a foothold. We were helpless with laughter and played to exhaustion, not wanting the moment to end. Bob said afterwards that he had never laughed so hard in his life.
There are scant sources of consolation in an early death, but at least we can remember that Bob was in his element, doing one of the things he enjoyed the most, with people he loved and valued. He went out at the top of his game.
If there's a heaven, we can imagine Bob up there, looking down on us and telling us to, for God's sake, lighten up!
We wish you fair winds and following seas, good friend.