Robert Preble Obituary
Robert John ‘Bob’ Preble, 96, lifelong Aberdeen resident and local historian, passed away peacefully at his home-away-from-home on Hood Canal.
Bob was born June 13, 1921 in Aberdeen, Washington, to Walter and Mary (Briggs) Preble, the youngest of five children.
He was a 1939 graduate of Weatherwax High School and a 1943 graduate of Stanford University. Entering the U.S. Navy in 1943, he served at sea in anti-submarine warfare and left active duty with the Underwater Demolition Teams in 1946. He retired from the reserves as a Lt. Commander.
Bob married Elizabeth Bregger, of Belle Glade, Florida, in 1946. Liz preceded him in death January 9, 2000. While in Miami for Navy training, Bob saw a friend’s picture of Liz and said, “I wish I could meet a girl like that.” The friend introduced them and they dated for the next 30 days until Bob had reported to the Pacific Theater. As he left, Liz gave him a note and a picture—and Bob knew she was the “one.” They corresponded by mail for two years; and after Liz died, he discovered the letters she had saved and he enjoyed reliving the memories.
He owned and operated the Preble Agency for 67 years in Aberdeen, working in life insurance, securities, employees’ benefits, and financial advice. Bob began his career with Guardian Life in July, 1946, serving Aberdeen and Grays Harbor County alongside his father, Walter, who started the agency in 1929. Bob finally sold his business at age 95, still dedicated to his clients, their welfare, and their investment needs. An independent agent, he was also general agent for Guardian and he met and exceeded the company's award levels many times over. He received the National Association of Life Underwriters Quality Award for 45 consecutive years. He was also a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) for many years.
Having grown up on the Harbor and being interested in its welfare and his neighbors, Bob knew a lot of the history of the area. Even to the end he had a good memory and could tell many anecdotes of the goings on of people and places. And Bob’s love of the Harbor showed itself in many ways over the years.
He was an avid patron of the arts in Aberdeen. He and Liz helped Aberdeen purchase three works of art, the Benny Bufano 'Owl' at the library (which sat in his home its first three weeks in Aberdeen), the George Tsutakawa Fountain outside City Hall, and the Gerald Tsutakawa sculpture in the library parking lot.
He was active at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen, having served over the years as lay reader, warden, vestryman, and teacher. His Christian faith led him to value every individual as important. He received the Bishop’s Cross from the Diocese of Olympia. In later years he also was a regular parishioner at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church in Allyn, WA near his weekend home at Hood Canal.
He was an active member of the Aberdeen Lions Club for over 70 years and even attended the meeting the week of his passing. He enjoyed working on the paper drives and other community service activities.
He served as a trustee on the Grays Harbor College Foundation Board. He was a founding member, trustee, and treasurer of the Grays Harbor Community Foundation Board, on which he was still serving at the time of his death.
Bob was invited to join the Salvation Army Advisory Board in the 1950’and served for over 60 years. He enjoyed delivering food baskets and ringing bells during the Christmas season.
He had been a board member with the Twin Harbors Boy Scout Council, and in 1979 he received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest adult scouting honor. For many years Bob recruited and kept current a well-qualified cadre of merit badge counselors for many units within the district. Through his leadership and effort, a permanent scout cabin was built on the Wynooche River.
He was active in American Field Service (AFS), and the Preble family hosted a German student for the 1966-67 school year. Bob assisted many other Aberdeen students to live abroad through the program.
He had a heart for service over the years, and was honored with the Lifetime Award at the Aberdeen Community Leadership 2011 annual dinner. He was part of the volunteer work crew who helped build Camp Bishop many years ago, and he was involved with fundraising and support of the new Aberdeen-Hoquiam YMCA. For four years he met with his “lunch buddy” at Robert Gray Elementary helping him to read and to love geography and maps. Bob served on the committee for the new Weatherwax High School. He also served on the committee for the yearly AHS Distinguished Alumni Award. He headed the local United Good Neighbors drive one year. He was on a committee many years ago deciding as to whether there should be a charter for Aberdeen's city government.
Bob was a fixture on local tennis courts from his childhood in 1931 until his mid-80's. He was a tournament player and ranked in the Pacific NW seniors list. As a younger man he loved backpacking in the Olympics. He loved to canoe on local rivers, lakes and Puget Sound. Bob was also a world traveler with Liz and visited exotic places as Bali, Madeira, the Canary Islands, and Borneo, as well as Russia and China. Together they visited over 30 countries.
Even last month he attended Stanford Alumni reunions in Palo Alto, CA as he has for many years, particularly enjoying the stimulation of “Classes Without Quizzes.” He was a patron of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival which he attended yearly for many years.
Bob is survived by his son, Gary and wife Sammie Preble of Olympia, WA and his daughter, Robin Preble of Langley, WA; grandchildren: Joshua, Daniel and Rachel Preble and Brendan Whyte; great-grandson: Thomas Preble; and by his companion of 15 years, Alice Lillegard Weston of Tumwater.
A memorial service will be held at 11AM Friday, December 1, 2017, at St Andrew’s Church, Aberdeen, followed by a reception in the St Andrew’s Parish Hall.
Donations in Bob Preble’s memory can be made to St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen or Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Arrangements are entrusted to Twibell’s Fern Hill Funeral Home in Aberdeen, WA.
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