PRINCETON — Exceptional, gentleman and friend are among the ways people described a man who dedicated many of his years to making life better for the people of Mercer County.
Robert Farley, former long-time president of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, passed away peacefully Sunday morning with family members by his side, a source confirmed to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Farley was regarded by friends and colleagues as a devoted community servant committed to the greater good of Princeton, Mercer County and the surrounding areas. He served as the chamber’s president and CEO for 14 years before announcing in July 2017 that he would be retiring in March 2018. And he vowed then to continue volunteering in the community.
Farley spent much of his life helping others. He was working for the Virginia Power Company in Alexandria, Va. when his father called him and told him that his mother had died suddenly at the age of 47, according to a previous report in the Princeton Times. His father was at a loss about how to raise Farley’s little brother, who was only 5 or 6 years old. Farley’s answer to the tragedy was to go home to Princeton and help.
After working at Stag Clothing in Princeton before going to work for Appalachian Power. He worked for 20 years at the power company and became involved in community initiatives and the local chamber of commerce, according to previous reports in the Princeton Times. He became even more involved in the chamber when he became the executive assistant for the late chamber president and CEO George Santon, and later when he took on the post himself.
Farley was one of those people who worked hard for his community without expecting recognition.
“Robert was probably one of the best men in Princeton,” CEO of the Princeton Rescue Squad Stacey Hicks said. “He did a lot of good for our community, but he didn’t put his name out there a lot. He worked behind the scenes. He was a special man to me and a lot of other people — and not just for Princeton, but all of Mercer County.”
Mercer County tourism director Jamie Null recalled Farley as a exceptional man, both professionally and personally.
“Robert was special to me because he was a constant in my career, as a former Lifestyles editor for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and as the current Mercer County CVB director,” Null said. “He was personal with his advice, which ranged from my job to wonderful encouragement about life as a parent. He loved to hear stories about my son Tanner. As a CVB board member, Robert was always supportive and outspoken for us as individuals and tourism in Mercer County.
“He was dedicated to Mercer County,” Null continued. “We will miss him very much.”
County officials also lauded Farley’s public service.
“Robert was a community servant,” Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett said. “He was committed to making life better for everyone. Over the last few years, and even post retirement, he was always wanting the best for his community.
“I was honored to call him a colleague, a supporter of the arts and community, and most importantly, a friend,” Puckett added. “He will be missed and his loss will be felt by all.”
Hicks described Farley as a humble man.
“He was just a humble servant,” Hicks said. “I wish there were more people like him. The world would be a better place.”
Roger Topping, administrator of the Mercer County Health Department, said that he worked with Farley both at the chamber of commerce and the Princeton Health Care Center.
“There aren’t enough good words in the world to describe Robert Farley,” Topping said. “He was a mentor to many of us as we were growing up in our business life and our personal life, and I think of the many, many golf trips and the golf games we played over the years.”
Golf can relax players and give them stress at the same time, but Farley always displayed his calm demeanor, Topping recalled.
“If he had a bad shot, you’d never know it. He was always so calm and collected; that’s the way he was with his work, too,” he added. “I never knew Robert to raise his voice not one time anytime we were working on something. He never raised his voice if something didn’t go right. He never had a bad word to say about people. I’d just say that Robert was a true gentleman. He loved his wife, he loved his girls, his three daughters were the apples of his eyes and his grand kids. Lordy, he loved them.”
And Robert Farley was always a person worth hearing.
“Robert served on many, many boards over the years,” Topping said. “Anything he said was well thought out before he spoke. I’d like to say when Robert spoke, people listened. When he had something to say, people showed up and listened to him. Robert was a friend to me for many, many years.”
Tammie Toler, a former editor of the Princeton Times, wrote the story that announced on July 28, 2017, that Farley was going to retire after serving 14 years as president of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce. He had decided that it was “time to go home.”
“Robert was a tireless advocate of Mercer County, particularly Princeton,” Toler said. “He was an extremely hard worker at everything he did. I was a long-time member of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, and he was always a gentleman. One long-running joke at a lot of events, whether it be for the chamber or for Rotary, was that Robert was always in charge of the weather. He usually came through for us.”
“He’ll be greatly missed,” Toler concluded.
A memorial service celebrating Farley’s life will be conducted 5:30 p.m. today at the First Baptist Church in Princeton with Pastor John Spade officiating. Friends may call at the church from 4 p.m. until the service hour.
In lieu of flowers, people may make memorial contributions to a favorite charity in Farley’s memory. Online condolences may be made by visiting www.seaverfuneralservice.com