Robert Edward Curtis, of Fort Bragg, died Oct. 22, 2016. He was born in San Francisco June 22, 1919, to Hilja Maria Makinen Curtis (Hilda Mary Mackinnon) and Pvt. Thomas Edward Curtis, stationed at the Presidio.
In August 1920, their second son, Richard John Curtis, was born in Newman, California. Later, the family lived in Morgan Hill. When the tomato crop failed, Tom took the advice of his brother-in-law, Chris Sallinen, married to “Hil’s” sister Sophy, and moved with his family to Fort Bragg, California. He made ties with Chris and worked in the woods.
“Hil” and her sisters had inherited land from their Finnish immigrant father off Highway 20, and Tom also farmed and cut firs for long-lines and telephone poles. Bob and Dick learned to fish and hunt. They were in the last class to graduate from eighth grade at Tunnel School and graduated in 1939 from Fort Bragg Union High School in the new building on Harold Street.
In September 1935, a third son, Gene Alfred, was born to Tom and “Hil.” Then came WWII. Bob joined the Navy before war broke out. He was on the heavy cruiser “Minneapolis” when Pearl Harbor was struck, but his ship was just outside the harbor. A gunner’s mate, he said they fired on the planes as they flew away. Five years passed for Bob in the Pacific theater. He served on the “Franks” and commented that he liked that ship. Meanwhile, Dick also joined the Navy and made a career of it.
Once the war was over, Bob came home and went into the woods. The bosses made him retire in his 70s! He ended his woods career, teaching young loggers how to be safe in an extremely dangerous job.
He married Pauline Sanders O’Brien some time in the 50s. She had two sons, Jay Stamps (who has descendants who survive) and Joseph O’Brien, who lived with them. Bob and Pauline had one daughter, Tonya Ree, born in 1958.
Bob and Pauline had a long marriage. They loved family, horses, dogs and the big log house Bob built from scratch out of logs he harvested off the land. Their garden gave a lot of pleasure. Bob really liked planting trees and succeeded, like his dad, with flowers and vegetables, too.
September in Fort Bragg has meant Paul Bunyan Days for a long, long time. Bob often helped organize the events and took part in them well into his 90s, giving exhibitions on cross-cut sawing, axe throwing, hand-bucking, etc., sometimes with a grandson on the other end of the saw. Bob and Pauline rode their horses for years in the big parade; he was part of the Sheriff’s posse.
He was a tremendously physically strong man, weight lifting into his old age. However, he also suffered terribly from PTSD, as we call it now. Through the VFW, he was able to get help and was able, subsequently, to help younger vets. We are very grateful to all the people who were so good to him over the years, especially providing transportation to the VA Hospital in the City.
Bob and Pauline were members of the LDS Church. We, his extended family, wish to thank them, too, for their caring, especially in these last several years before Pauline left us. And, dear Mary, his granddaughter-in-law, the “other” Mary, and finally, Heather, caregivers all. Thank you. We will all miss Bob and Pauline.
Bob was predeceased by two beloved grandsons, Luke and Justin; and two daughters, Ethel Marie and Pamela Jean; his wife Pauline; and his daughter Tonya. He is survived by his grandsons, Jesse (Mary) and Cassidy, and their offspring; and his step-son, Joseph O’Brien (Nancy) and their descendants. Bob’s brothers, Dick and Gene (Jan), and their families are with us: Tobie, Mamie and their respective descendants; and Jacob, Cecelia, Matthew and Zachary and their descendants. There are many, many Curtis cousins “unto the fourth generation,” who will be saddened by the news of his passing. ▪