Peter Robin Tolley



Memorial Contributions

 Grand Rapids

Community Foundation


343 Atlas Ave SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49506


Habitat of Humanity Kent County

425 Pleasant St. SW,

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Peter Robin Tolley went west on July 1, 2020. He was a seaman, pilot, husband, father, and storyteller. He pursued his avocations to the highest possible levels. We like to think he is flying high!

Pete began life on December 19, 1942 in East Orange, NJ as the son of Peter Tolley and Mae Meindermann. From there the family moved to upstate New York and in the 5th grade Pete moved to Glendale, OH where he had fond memories of growing up.

He began his captaining career as a sailor. He was a member of The Ohio State University sailing team. In 1969 he began flying a Taylorcraft BC12-D tail dragger. He flew many different types of aircraft over the years, but his favorite was the Falcon10/100 jet. Pete was a member of Quiet Birdman.

Pete spent a year studying in Tubingen, Germany where he became very fluent in German. He took the USS United States over and flew back on a jet. He often told the story of riding a BMW motorcycle from Tubingen to West Berlin through East Germany.

Pete graduated in December 1967 from The Ohio State University with a JD. He became a member of the bar in June 1968 after scoring a perfect score on the bar exam. He was admitted to practice law in the United State Supreme Court plus numerous federal and state courts. Pete tried cases in 12 states from Michigan to Hawaii to Florida and Wyoming. He worked on cases in 49 of the 50 states. He was a founding member of the Aviation Section of the Michigan State Bar Association. He worked on the landmark Michigan Environmental Law and published aviation law articles in various publications.

Competitive sports were always a passion. While at OSU, Pete earned the Ni Dan black belt in judo. He competed for a slot on the USA Olympic judo team in 1963. Pete enjoyed shooting registered skeet and pistol. He was a member of Kent Conservation League. He scuba dived in the Great Lakes and Caribbean plus skied in Michigan, Colorado, and Canada.

Pete was very proud of his family and their accomplishments which he shared with everyone. He has a family of high achievers.

Pete will be missed by wife, Joan and children – Christopher Tolley, NC; Sabrina (Joy Ableman) Tolley, WI; Jordan (Meagan Bunck) Tolley, TX. Pete loved his Irish red head granddaughter, Aria. Also surviving are his sister, Penny Pate and grandchildren Adam Tolley and Alissa Sattler. He had many friends who will miss his stories.

The family will hold a traditional Irish wake at a later date. Please join us in remembering our husband, father, grandfather, and friend by raising a glass in toast to Pete and then tell your favorite story about him.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation LGBTQ Fund, 185 Oakes St. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 or Habitat of Humanity Kent County, 425 Pleasant St. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

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One Response

  1. Best Wishes to Robin’s family — ( who was my cousin) especially remembering his sister Penny .

    Walt Tolley — ( Now in North Carolina)

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