Local Obits

Obituary of Robert Isaf


Robert Salem Isaf, age 88, passed away on July 12, 2023. Born in Cortland, NY on July 1, 1935, he was the son of Salem Betrus Isaf and Rose Sopp Isaf. A lifelong Cortland resident, he attended St. Mary’s School where he developed longlasting friendships. He graduated from what was formerly known as Manlius Military Academy in Manlius, NY in 1954 where he played football and wrestled. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at LeMoyne College in 1959. While at LeMoyne he played basketball and soccer, and he boxed. It was also where he met his future wife, Maureen O’Connor of Liverpool, NY. They were married in May,1960 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Galeville, NY. They began their married life in Cortland.


After graduating from LeMoyne, he started a sales career working for his father at the Cortland Paper Company. A chance encounter changed his career path forever. On a sales call at St. Mary’s School, the principal asked if there was there any possibility he could substitute teach for a day for her and thus his forty-year teaching journey began.

He enrolled in a Master’s degree program in Elementary Education at what was then Cortland State University and began teaching elementary school and coaching varsity basketball at Marathon Central School. He received his Master’s degree in 1965 and from 1965-66 he was an Assistant Professor of Education at the State University of New York at Geneseo. In 1966 he joined the faculty at the SUNY College at Cortland in the Department of Education. After completing a year of residency and a teaching assistantship he earned his Ph.D in 1974 from Ohio University.

He served on most department and college-wide committees and was a member of several professional memberships including Phi Delta Kappa National Education Honors Society. He also served as an interim Chairman of the Education Department. He retired in 2000 as an Associate Professor of Education Emeritus.

Bob served his country in the Army National Guard of New York and Army Reserve.

Active in the Cortland community, he was a three-term First Ward alderman on the City Common Council, a mayoral candidate, a member of the City Police Commission and the City of Cortland Public Safety Commission. He also volunteered for the Heart Fund and the United Way. He was a member of the Cortland Elks Club and Willowbrook Golf Club.

He was appointed to the SUNY Cortland College Council by Governor George Pataki in 2005 and served until 2011. In 2011, he was asked to serve on the LeMoyne College Board of Regents. He served until 2013.

During retirement, many winter months were spent in South Carolina but Bob was a true hometown boy and was always eager to return to his routine in Cortland. He enjoyed spending time with friends, golfing, weightlifting, a good game of pitch, his cars, Notre Dame football and working out at the college fitness center. Above all else, he enjoyed his role as a father and a grandfather, something at which he excelled. Bob reveled in storytelling and his sense of humor was a defining aspect of his personality. He was a fantastic educator and served as a major influence on so many students over the years. He was loyal and dedicated and cared deeply for his hometown, the students at Cortland, and his alma mater LeMoyne.

Bob is survived by his wife, Maureen and their five children, daughter Beth Isaf-Lauri (Michael), Montgomery, NY; sons Mark Robert (Amy), Paris, IL; John Kevin (Barbara), Medfield, MA; Matthew (LesleeAnne Bellardini), Cortland; and Daniel Martin (Jennifer), Lewisburg, PA; six grandchildren, John Robert (Chelsea) Lauri, Danielle Lauri, Salem Isaf, Sarah Isaf, Jack Isaf, and Meghan Isaf; his sister-in-law Sheila and his childhood best friend and brother-in-law John Keegan, Murrell’s Inlet, SC; his brother-in-law and sister-in-law William and Susan O’Connor, Tampa FL, and their children Katie (Matt) Davies, Patty (Tom) Murphy, and Amy (Rich) Pierce; sister-in-law Margie O’Connor, Cicero, NY and children Jeffrey O’Connor and Michael O’Connor; and several cousins.

In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his brother-in-law Dennis O’Connor and his in-laws J. Martin and Esthyr O’Connor.

Wright-Beard Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. In keeping with Bob’s wishes, he will be cremated. Calling hours will be held on Saturday, August 12 from 2:00-3:30 with a memorial service from 3:30-4:00 at 9 Lincoln Avenue.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in his name to the Alzheimer’s Association of CNY (5015 Campuswood Dr. E. Syracuse, NY 13057) or the Cortland Youth Bureau/Suggett Park, (35 Port Watson Street Cortland, NY 13045) which provides so much to the families of Cortland.

To offer condolences visit www.wrightbeard.com

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