HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – Robert Lester Ackley, 84, of Hendersonville, died peacefully on July 4, 2019, at Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville, N.C.
Robert was born Feb. 4, 1935, in Hoboken, N.J., the son of Lester Willis Ackley and Virginia S. Ackley.
He married Nina Ortiz in Mexico in 1963. They raised three children – Stephen, Eric and Esia. Robert and Nina later divorced.
Robert served in the U.S. Air Force in the mid-1950s and was honorably discharged from Parker Air Force Base in California. He spent part of his military time in Okinawa, Japan, where he developed an affinity and respect for the Asian culture.
In his early adult years, Robert worked for the U.S. Postal Service and spent time as a decorator and window display arranger in major department stores in New York City. He also pursued a career as a dancer. He was accepted on a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Dance – where he studied ballet and jazz – but was not able to complete his schooling due to competing demands of work and family time.
In 1977, Robert, Nina and family moved from New Jersey to North Carolina. Robert built homes incorporating passive solar design and other environmentally sound principles. He was a skilled woodworker and enjoyed time organic gardening. He also taught courses in house-building and solar design at the local community college.
In 1999, Robert met Frances Turosak in Hendersonville. Among other interests, they shared a passion for dancing. They married the following year, with friends and family in attendance.
Robert and Fran lived in two homes in Hendersonville. They danced frequently and taught ballroom dancing to people young and old for many years. In June 2015, they moved to Carolina Village. There, they enjoyed making many new friends and continued dancing for a time. Robert also enjoyed the wood-working shop, playing ping pong and the Monday morning Music Series produced by Great Courses.
Robert was a deeply spiritual person. He found meditative peace and expressed his creativity in such pursuits as flower arranging and Japanese gardens. For years he made flower arrangements for Carolina Village. He was well-versed with and followed some principles drawn from Asian cultural, medicinal and spiritual traditions. He was knowledgeable of and found joy in watching old movies and listening to big band music, and talking about those subjects. Robert also had a love of all animals, great and small. He often saved little critters and released them to the outdoors.
Robert is survived by his wife, Frances T. Ackley of Hendersonville; three children, Stephen Ackley-Ortiz and his wife Ramie of New Haven, Conn., Eric Laslow and his daughter, Celina, of Leadville, Colo., and Esia Ackley of Greensboro, N.C.; and several stepsons, Greg Turosak and his wife Katherine Logan of Rochester, Minn., Paul Turosak of Richmond, Va., John Turosak and his wife Sarah Turosak of Cuenca, Ecuador, and Jim Turosak and his wife Amy Turosak of Burlington, Vt.
Arrangements are pending with the family but will likely include a gathering of friends and family at Carolina Village. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to Best Friends, Henderson Rescue Mission and Humane Society.