Partner William "BJ" Newton

Queer Places:
The Culinary Institute of America, 1946 Campus Dr, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Robert David Shelley (1947 - December 14, 1993) was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and worked as a chef for a number of restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area. He gained national attention after The Washington Post ran an article in spring 1993 about his being gay and having custody of his son. Robert Shelley's homosexuality was not spelled out to the courts, and activists say he was among a few gay men in the nation who have custody of their children.

Shelley's 12-year marriage to Margaret Anne Shelley, Kristian's mother, ended in 1981. Kristian's parents initially shared custody, but when Kristian began having discipline problems, he went to live with his father.

Robert Shelley worked as a chef at the Metropolitan Club, George Mason University, the Smithsonian Institution, Boeing Computers and the House of Representatives dining room. He last worked at the National Air and Space Museum as chef manager.

Shelley was born in Highspire, Pa., and grew up in Thompsontown, Pa. He graduated from East Juniata High School in 1965. Following his graduation he enlisted in the Air Force and served until 1970. During his four years in the military he served in Vietnam and was awarded the Air Force Commenelation Medal. Shelley was a longtime resident Alexandria, where he moved shortly after moving to D.C. in 1971.

Shelley was a motorcycle enthusiast and was active with the Centaur Motorcycle, Alexandria.

He died on December 14, 1992, at the Hospice of Northern Virginia in Arlington of complications associated with AIDS, according to his lover and companion, William "BJ" Newton of Alexandria, Virginia. "I really feel a great loss," said his son, Kristian, 19, at the time a sophomore at James Madison University. "He was probably the closest person to me. He was not only my father, he was my closest friend. I wouldn't be in college today and on my way -- hopefully -- to success if it weren't for him."


  1. https://historyproject.omeka.net/items/show/442?output=omeka-xml
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1992/12/19/gay-father-dies-at-age-46/0f9ed926-70ae-4573-ba28-922475d79fe5/?utm_term=.07f899feba8c