MIDDLETOWN - Robert Owen Lanouette passed away Sunday afternoon, February 4, 2018, at the James L. Maher Center's group home on Jepson Lane in Middletown, RI, after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 63.
Known around town as "Bob", he was born in New Haven, CT in 1954 to Joseph F. and Gertrude T. Lanouette and grew up in North Haven. In the early 1970s, he moved to Newport to live with his brother Peter and his family. Bob exemplified the successes of special education for people with Down syndrome. At the Maher Center, he was known for a cheerful spirit, quick wit, hard work, and lively dance moves. Around town Bob loved seeing movies and imitating famous lines, or singing karaoke, especially Elvis. Sinatra's "I did it my way" was a favorite refrain; "Nobody's perfect" a frequent reply.
At Salve Regina University Bob participated in classes that encouraged ways to teach students with disabilities. He edited a group-home newsletter, wrote poetry, and ran in the Special Olympics. In 1989 Bob wrote a memorable article for the Newport Daily News about Down syndrome -- its personal challenges and its public acceptance. Over the years Bob worked in the Maher Center's nursery, for other Center clients, and as a checkout bagger at Stop & Shop. His signature greeting was a smile and a hug.
Bob is predeceased by his parents, and by brother Peter. He is survived by brothers William, of San Diego, CA; Joseph, of North Haven, CT; and John, of Deep River, CT; maternal aunt Barbara T. O'Neill, of New London, CT; a large extended family of cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws, and a wide network of colleagues and friends. A celebration of Bob's life is being planned for the spring. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Maher Center.