Obituary: Robert Perkins Foley – Portland Press Herald

Robert Perkins Foley

Robert Perkins Foley 1941 – 2022 BRUNSWICK – Photographer, Foreign Car Enthusiast, Architectural Buff, Impeccable Dresser. Robert P. Foley 80, of Brunswick, died peacefully, Sunday May 15, 2022. He was born June 25, 1941 in Nashua, N.H. to Charles and Geneva (Perkins) Foley. Robert graduated from Glenbrook High School in Northbrook, Ill. and continued his education at Marlboro College in Vermont, receiving a degree in 18th Century New England Architecture. In 1963 he married his childhood sweetheart, Polly Sears. In 1963, on a trip to Newport, R.I. they happened upon the Peter Simon House on Bridge Street. He vowed to buy the home and restore it if it ever came on the market. In 1964, it did and he and Polly made good on the promise. During that time they welcomed two children, Bradford and Emily. Polly and Robert divorced in 1971. Robert remained in Newport for 48 years. He made a living as a marine and architectural photographer, focusing on yacht racing and the America’s Cup in particular, documenting the heyday of the ’80’s and ’90’s when Ted Turner was at the helm of Courageous. He worked primarily in black and white, developing and printing much of his work, and selling it in his Photography Shop on Bowen’s Wharf. Returning to his roots, he documented existing conditions and restoration projects for dozens of 18th century buildings acquired by the Newport Restoration Foundation (founded by Doris Duke). Later in life, Robert landed his dream job at NRF as the Director of Preservation. He spent much of his time at Rough Point, meticulously managing restoration projects throughout the Estate. He overhauled the foundation’s color schemes based on paint analysis and led the effort to create a database for the Narragansett Bay basin through dendrochronology, which is the science of dating events and variations in environment in former periods by comparative study of growth rings in trees ands aged wood. Upon receiving the Frederick C. Williamson Award for Professional Leadership, it was noted “With his unassuming demeanor, Robert’s preservation work has often taken place behind the scenes or behind the camera. But everyone who cares about Newport’s historic character is a beneficiary of his knowledge, skill, and dedication.” He retired in 2016 and enjoyed time with his Weimaraner, Jackie, numerous visits with Brad, Jen, Emily and Polly, and annual trips to Stonington, Maine. Stonington held a special place in Robert’s heart, almost every summer of his life since childhood was spent there with his beloved sisters (now passed) Eleanor and Barbara. He shared his passion of Kate’s House on the point with Brad, Jen, and their two boys, Jameson, and Benjamin for many years and recently, Emily and Polly were added into the mix. The tradition continues and a new generation of Foley’s will enjoy Kate’s House for many years to come. A consummate dabbler, Robert enjoyed working on and driving foreign sports cars, searching for intricate model car projects and putting them together piece by piece, restoration of old English carousel animals, and finding and fixing old tools. He was an avid gardener, whose gardens on the corner of Spring and Mill Streets across from Trinity Church in Newport were photographed by thousands over the years in the spring, capturing his beautiful Red Tulips, Daffodils, and Purple Irises. He moved to Brunswick in 2020 as dementia set in, residing at Avita of Brunswick. He is survived by his son Bradford and wife Jennifer Foley of Bowdoinham, and his daughter Emily Foley of Sandwich, Mass.; grandsons, Jameson and wife Ann Foley of Vineland, N.J., and Benjamin Foley of Bend, Ore.; a great-granddaughter, Charlotte Autumn Foley of Vineland, N.J.; and a niece and many nephews on both his predeceased sisters’ side of the family. He was predeceased by his sisters, Eleanor Foley Lesieur and Barbara Foley Lesieur; and his parents. At Robert’s request, there will be no service. To leave a note of condolence or share a memory, please visit In lieu of flowers, those who wish may make a memorial contribution to the: Seamen’s Church Institute in Newport, RI at

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