Robert Marius Gossart died peacefully in hospice on Dec. 17, 2019. Death was due to complications from a stroke. Robert was born in Tournai, Belgium, on Oct. 20, 1935. He was a modern-day pioneer and explorer, moving to the United States in 1970 for a new start in life. As a child he lived through World War II and Belgium’s occupation by the Nazis, witnessing all the horrors and anxieties that war in your own backyard can bring. Raised as a Catholic, his mother wanted him to be a priest, but as an agnostic he first became a pediatrician, then a child psychiatrist. He trained at the Universities of Louvain and Namur in Belgium, the University de Paris in France and Yale University in New Haven, Conn. He first practiced in Brussels, Belgium, then in New Haven and Bridgeport, Conn.; he was a child psychiatrist at the Yale Child Study Center, then the medical director for Connecticut’s Department of Children and Youth Services for many years. In semi-retirement, he worked part time at Acadia Hospital in Bangor. He was a single parent to three wonderful children for over 10 years. He had much admiration and empathy for single parents and commented, “I was always exhausted in those years.”
Robert was a most unusual man. His shy, self-effacing, timid qualities hid his gifted mind and sensitivity to the world. He was a private person, did not say much; but, when he spoke, it was always a good idea to listen. His love was boundless and large. He loved the great and simple pleasures life offers. Worldly goods meant very little to him. He had a dry wit, would make many quips: we laughed often. He had that “je ne sais quoi” quality. Robert disliked gossip and always saw someone else’s strengths and point of view. Far from perfect, he made no pretense of trying to be so. He loved messes and chaos, the natural order of the universe. A true intellectual, he thought critically and deeply about philosophical and world issues. He read voraciously. He could change his mind when he saw he was in error.
As a young child, multiple priests attempted to sexually abuse him. He fought them off. Robert spent a lifetime sorting out and studying the effects of abuse on children. For much of his life, most of the world was silent about sexual abuse. When the world woke up, he was pleased to find that he was not alone. For years he championed people who were abused, pushed aside and unheard. He unstintingly gave a voice to those who had no voice. He joined SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and was Maine’s SNAP representative for many years. Being fluent in French and English, he took calls from around the world, counseling those affected by sexual abuse. There were times that the phone just did not seem to stop ringing. He turned his anger into passion to prevent such atrocities from happening again. Despite his sober outlook on life, he was ever the optimist, trusting that in the long arc of justice, truth and compassion would win over evil and hatred.
Robert leaves his wife, Judith Burger-Gossart, and his three children, Sandra Gossart-Walker and her husband, Robert Walker; Sabine Gossart and her husband, Kevin Lach; and Benoit Gossart and his wife, Mary Beth, plus four grandchildren, Jacob Walker, David Lach and Ryan and Kaitlin Gossart. A private memorial service will be held at some time in the future. Anyone wishing to honor his life may make a donation to Acadia Senior College or the College of the Atlantic.