Bob’s early years were during the Great Depression. In the first thirteen years of his life, he and his family lived in Albion, NE; Albemarle, NC; Glendale, CA; Spaulding, NE; Bremerton, WA: and Omaha, NE. He graduated from high school in Omaha. Two days later, he left for Alaska. He lived in the American Arctic for the next twelve years, including two years in the Army during the Korean War. Bob was the equipment superintendent of the western section of the DEW line. He was the first man to cross over the summit of the Brooks Range in a mechanical vehicle, among other firsts in Arctic development. He wrote a book about his adventures in the north, called “Arctic Tales and Arctic Trails”.
After his Alaska years, Bob moved to Seattle. He married JoAnn (Jody) Williamson on November 23, 1957. He worked as an Operating Engineer for General Construction until 1975. Worksites included the jetty in Edmonds, Washington, the Port Townsend Marina, and Mats Mats Quarry on the Olympic Peninsula. He then went to work for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302, until his retirement on January 1, 1986.
Bob played a formative role in the lives of many people. He was a loving father to daughter Tracy Pittenger. Bob, Jody, and Tracy provided a home to niece Ruth Johnson and to Lynda Wirth in their teenage years, forming strong lifelong bonds. He was a special part of the childhoods of Leslea Smith, niece, and Drew Smith and D.A. Williamson, nephews. In time, Lynda’s husband, Scott, and Ruth’s husband, Steve, became part of the family. Jody became bedridden in 1991, and Bob cared for her faithfully until her death in 2012.
Bob, Jody, and Tracy moved to Port Townsend, WA in 1968. Bob built the family home in Port Townsend from the ground up in the mid-1970’s. Tracy, Leslea, and Drew participated in the construction by, among other things, finding rocks to put in the foundation trenches to save on concrete. The chimney was built with rock from Mats Mats. Bob became a fixture in the North Beach community of Port Townsend over his fifty-plus years there, known for his amazing tales of adventures in the Arctic, mostly true. In later years, Bob and his treasured companion and the talented artist of the included portrait, Marilyn Pinkerton, enjoyed Sunday breakfasts with special friends (and unique characters) at what Bob called “The Center of the Known Universe,” also known as Sea J’s Café.
Bob’s last business card, at the age of 91, listed the following credentials: licensed airplane driver, licensed sea captain, heavy equipment operator, arctic explorer, husband, father, and all-around good guy. No one in their right mind would argue with that. He was greatly loved.
The family invites Bob’s many friends and admirers to join us in an open house celebration of his life on December 14, 2019, from noon to 3 p.m. at the house that Bob built.