ROSWELL, Ga. — Few people can say that they inspired and touched as many people as Robert “Bob” J. Farley, co-founder of the Georgia Ensemble Theatre. And on Dec. 18, hundreds packed the Roswell Cultural Arts Center to celebrate Farley’s life and to remember just how influential he continues to be.
Farley, 69, unexpectedly passed away Nov. 30, less than a month after he and his wife Anita had accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Suzie Bass Awards.
“We all love you – miss you forever, love you forever,” said Paul Brown, who knew the Farley for over 40 years. “The sadness we feel is overpowered by the gratitude that we all feel for having met this extraordinary man.”
Farley had a lifelong career in a theater, starting with the Pasadena Playhouse before moving on to the Alliance Theatre and Alaska Repertory Theatre. Once he settled in the Atlanta area, Farley helped co-found the Georgia Ensemble Theatre in 1992 and led it for 25 years.
“Bob was a passionate leader, a committed artist, a person of many talents and interests, and most importantly, a much-beloved husband, father, and grandfather,” the Georgia Ensemble Theatre said in a statement. “His leadership and influence were truly something special.”
Close friends and family of Farley spoke at the celebration, sharing stories of how they met him and sharing memories of working and living with him. A medley of some of the theater’s greatest hits and some of Farley’s songs were performed live between speakers. The entire celebration of Farley’s life was livestreamed on the Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s Facebook page, facebook.com/GeorgiaEnsembleTheatre/.
“When a bit worked, when we pulled it off, and made a show work, no one was happier for you than Bob,” Maclare “MC” Park said. “And it wasn’t that you made his show work, it was that you improved your skills, that you were better.”
For many of the speakers, Farley’s memory was closely tied with the Georgia Ensemble Theatre and introducing people to the world of theater.
“Bob Farley changed lives,” Bob Hagan said. “Bob Farley made a difference in many people’s lives. Bob Farley not only made a difference in the community here in Roswell, he made a difference in the whole theater community. The Roswell community has been so fortunate to have the influence of Bob Farley in creating such a fabulous venue for the performing arts… Your legacy will continue.”
“For a nonprofit theater to last for as long as it has in this environment, this world, after 25 years, I would say it’s a miracle, but it’s not,” said Rob Cleveland, who did fundraisers and standup for Farley. “It’s because of Bob, and Anita, and the people. The ensemble…Which means all of us.”
In lieu of flowers, the Georgia Ensemble Theatre is asking for donations to the Robert J. Farley Memorial Fund at get.org.
“It’s the end of an era, and I know for a lot of us, it’s the end of a chapter in the book of all our lives,” said James Donadio. “But I can just feel Farley standing next to me, leaning over and whispering in my ear, ‘Jimmy, just turn the page. Let’s see what’s next.’