Bob Huggard, 1930 – 2012

12/27/2012

Bob Huggard, a Korean War veteran who worked in Point Reyes Station for over a decade following a 30-year career in the North Bay fuel service industry, died on December 20 at age 82.    

Admitted to Marin General Hospital two weeks ago after a roommate found him lying motionless on the floor of his home, Bob succumbed to complications of heart failure, his niece, Chris Pauley, said.

News of his death has spread throughout West Marin, where he developed lasting bonds with ranchers, farmers and gas station owners and staff while delivering fuel for Standard Oil. For the last 12 years he worked as a cashier at Greenbridge Gas and Auto Service, one of the last remaining gas stations in West Marin.  

Coworkers and customers at Greenbridge said Bob manned the cash register with compassion. He was sometimes known to leave his home, only two blocks away, to open the shop after business hours and on holidays.

He was a “sucker for anybody who wanted help,” Mark Reano, who has run the gas station for the past 16 years, said.

“And I suffered from this sometimes,” he jokingly added. Mr. Reano recalled Bob offering free candy to youngsters and sometimes even free fuel to travelers low on gas.

He did not give away everything, though. During the Christmas season, Bob made a habit of trying to persuade customers—mainly women—to purchase mistletoe that he gathered every year to bring to the station.

“He was definitely a ladies man,” joked Dorcy Curth of Marshall, who bought the

festive sprigs from him for the last seven years. She was among many longtime customers who trickled in and out of the gas station this week, some staying a while to reminisce about their encounters with Bob.

Ms. Curth remembered his charisma, which she said did not fade in recent years, even as his health declined.

“Bob had so many issues, but he didn’t care,” she said. Bob suffered recurring kidney and heart failure, and last year he broke his hip while on the job. “He was always positive,” she said. The Light published a letter he wrote to thank kids from West Marin School who had sent him cards while he was in the hospital.

It was his resilience, coworkers said, that in part defined his work ethic.

After serving as a mechanic in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Bob worked for a petroleum company in the East Bay, where he grew up. He later moved to Petaluma in the early 1960’s, setting out on a career with Standard Oil in Santa Rosa. He delivered oil and gas as a contractor for the company for more than 30 years.

Bob’s independence drew admiration from his supervisor, Randy Parker, who characterized him as a “self-made” person who “always had to be busy.”

Along his delivery route was Drake Highway Garage in Inverness, where Dixon Marin Services now resides. Former garage owner Lee Richardson used to rely on Bob for regular deliveries to fill his three underground gas tanks.

Bob’s services extended to ranchers and farmers out on the Point. Among those customers he was known for fulfilling his commitments, which sometimes involved deliveries on weekends and holidays.

“His word was his word,” Mr. Richardson, who now occasionally offers home repairs and other services across the county as a handyman, said. “He worked the old fashioned way. When he said he was going to do something, he’d do it.”

The two developed a friendship built upon shared stories about their involvement in the Korean War.

Bob was laid off from Standard Oil about 12 years ago, and, in search of work, left a handwritten note on a torn piece of paper at the gas station in Point Reyes. The note wound up in the hands of Mr. Reano, who waited three or four months before making what he said was “one of the better choices I’ve made” and offered him a position.

“He was born to work, and he wanted to die working,” Mr. Reano said. “And he got close to it.”

Work was also a source of social interaction and friendship for Bob, who never married and whose ties to his family grew distant over the years as siblings and relatives moved to different parts of the state.

Ms. Pauley, his niece, sought to reconnect with her uncle in recent years.

She recalled, as a child, seeking the company of her uncle, whom she remembered as a “big, big book worm” who always seemed to be able to carry on conversations about her hobbies.

“It was just odd that he knew a lot about horses and things that I was interested in,” Ms. Pauley, who runs a farm with her husband in Georgetown, about 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, said.

Some friends said they remembered Bob for his physical strength.

Jake Shoemaker, who worked at Drake Highway Garage as a youngster and now works at Greenbridge, recalls seeing Bob handily removing 55-gallon drums of fuel from his truck at the Inverness gas station.

His broad frame, Mr. Shoemaker said as he nodded at the entrance of the Greenbridge office, could “barely fit through that door.”

Others remembered him as thoughtful. If Bob was struggling with an illness, Mr. Richardson said, “he’d never let you know.”

“He was interested in you,” he added, “not himself.”

But perhaps his most memorable quality was his generosity, exemplified by a final gift to his coworkers at Greenbridge: an envelop containing enough money to take the garage crew and others out to dinner upon his passing.

“Now that’s giving to the end,” Mr. Shoemaker said.