Colorado 9/11 Activist Loses Fight with Stomach Cancer

Bob McFarland, physician and activist, dies
By Ryan Morgan
Thursday, November 27, 2008

bob-mcfarlandMcFarland moved to Boulder with his wife, Zoe, and daughter Laura in 1961. Their son, Bruce, was born that same year. In 1970, McFarland set up the People’s Clinic to help poor, transient youths get good medical care.

Doctors weren’t exactly clamoring to take those patients at the time, Zoe McFarland said Tuesday. But she said her husband didn’t hesitate to reach out and take over the job.

“Most people shy away from causing a hassle for themselves, but he never shied away from that,” she said. “He took care of a lot of people in his practice and didn’t charge them. He took care of hippies when other people wouldn’t.”

The People’s Clinic was just one of McFarland’s causes. He also helped run the Boulder Valley Clinic. After a child-abuse death in the early 1980s, he started the Parenting Place in the early 1980s to educate new parents to prevent child abuse. This year, he helped raise thousands of dollars to open up a similar facility in Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

He served as a physician at the Boulder County Jail, providing cheap care to inmates.

McFarland embraced sometimes-controversial causes. He helped start a facility to provide abortions, in 1973. He ran a methadone clinic to help people addicted to drugs. Late in his life, he joined groups whose members argued that the U.S. government had a role in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He helped organize protests against nuclear arms and joined marches down to Rocky Flats, and made unsuccessful bids for the 2nd Congressional District seat and for a spot on the Boulder Valley school board. If there was a cause he believed in, his wife said, McFarland would join.

He liked to don a tri-cornered hat and carry an American flag as part of an American Revolutionary War era costume to protests.

“He was there to help everyone,” Zoe McFarland said. “The underdogs, those people who were oppressed, the environment. He’d get an idea and just keep on hammering at it until people took notice of what he was trying to say.”

City Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said she admired McFarland’s tirelessness.

“He was a visionary, that’s for sure,” Morzel said. “His interest was in the betterment of the broader community, especially looking out for those people who weren’t so well provided for.”

Len Barron, a friend of 40 years, said he’ll remember McFarland for the energy and relentless sense of justice.

“But when I think about all of the characteristics of Bob, it’s that he was a wonderful friend,” Barron said. “If Bob McFarland was your friend, you really had a friend.”

Zoe McFarland sounded a similar note. Her husband was an activist and relentlessly pursued what he saw as the truth — but, she said, he wasn’t always fighting the establishment.

“With our home life, he was very traditional,” she said. “He read to our kids, he did all of the normal things that fathers do.”

McFarland said her husband was healthy and active, riding around town on his bicycle, until he fell ill early in the summer. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer on July 1, and doctors said he wouldn’t live longer than three months, she said.

He proved them wrong, surviving for another five months.

“One of the doctors treating him said, ‘He’s dying the way he lived,’” McFarland said. “He’s very stubborn.”

Contact Camera Staff Writer Ryan Morgan at 303-473-1333 or

Original article here.