Robert 'Cool Moose' Healey Jr. dies at 58

Robert "Cool Moose" Healey Jr. dies at 58. (WJAR)

Rhode Island politician and founder of the Cool Moose Party, Robert Healey Jr., died Sunday at his home in Barrington. He was 58.

Healey was a third-party candidate who over the years called for the elimination of a state office and ran repeatedly for Rhode Island's top job.

"It's a tremendous loss. It really is," Bill Gilbert, chairman of the Moderate Party, said Monday. "Bob was one of the stalwarts that was always fighting from the outside trying to get in. He was a true champion for the people not the system."

Gilbert was the one to convince Healey to run for governor in 2014 as the Moderate Party's replacement candidate. He learned from the media that Barrington police confirmed Healey was found dead in his bed by a friend Sunday.

While his ideas reigned supreme, Healey's long tresses and full beard is how many people recognized him. The news of his death was a shock for many in the political sphere.

"He was always, always encouraged us to think about things and encouraged lively and spirited debate," said Gov. Gina Raimondo. "And of course, I enjoyed getting to know him. It was just shocking and very sad."

"He wasn't machine politics," said Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University and NBC 10 political analyst. "He wasn't aligned with anybody. He basically said, 'Government doesn't work. I'm going to put myself forward and try to fix it either by eliminating it or running the government in a totally different way.'"

"Bob is a big actor in Rhode Island politics and someone who seems very vital and vibrant," said June Sager Speakman, a political science professor at Roger Williams University. "The idea that he is gone is very surprising for all of us in town."

Whether you agreed with his views or not, Healey made an impact on Rhode Island politics. Speakman invited the founder of the Cool Moose Party to speak to her class.

"The students were able to see the kind of challenges that he put to the status quo," she said.

Healey ran for governor four times, most recently in 2014. He also ran for lieutenant governor several times with the goal of abolishing the office.

While third parties usually don't win, many people thought Healey had a real chance in 2014. He earned 21 percent of the vote in a three-way race against Raimondo -- who won -- and Republican Allan Fung, despite entering late and spending a pittance.

"What Bob did with $37 is just amazing," Gilbert said. "I think that's going to be his legacy going forward is trying to remove the money from politics."

Despite his influence, Healey was not a full-time politician. Instead, he was an entrepreneur, lawyer, and teacher among other professions. He owned The Cheese Plate in Barrington and at one point a wine company in Uruguay.

Healey was born May 3, 1957, in Providence. He grew up and spent his life in Warren.

Healey graduated Rhode Island College, earning a bachelor's degree in English and secondary education. He also completed his master's degree in reading at Boston University, a degree in law from the New England School of Law, and a master's in law from Northeastern University.

He almost completed his Ph.D. from Columbia University, but his dissertation supervisor died and a replacement could not be found.

He also completed a children's book in 2010.

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