Robert Charles Gelder (“Sarge”) passed away peacefully at home in McKinleyville on
November 30, 2022, at the age of 76, with loved ones by his side.
Bob didn’t just live life with gusto; he devoured it and brought the party with him wherever he went. He was a kind and generous man who expressed his appreciation in a profound manner, all the while not realizing the impact he had on people. To him, he was just being himself and doing what comes naturally. He thrived on lifting people’s spirits and making them smile.
Born in Torrance, California, on July 11, 1946, Bob grew up in Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes, becoming the typical surfer of the era, with blonde hair to match. His childhood was unusual, as he was born with ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - but his parents made sure he had the latest cutting-edge medical treatment. Most children in that time were institutionalized, as was pointed out by a V.A. psychiatrist decades later, giving Bob even more respect for his parents’ eﬀorts to provide him the best opportunities while living at home. He went to private school for “special” kids until the sixth grade and then joined public school. In 1967 Bob enlisted in the army during the Vietnam War and spent three years in the 4th Armored Division in Schwabach, Germany, as a medic. While in Germany, Russia invaded Czechoslovakia as part of the “Prague Spring” and his division was activated with the 2nd Squadron being given highest priority as a reconnaissance unit.
After returning from Germany, Bob ran into a friend in Southern California who had discovered a town up north called Fortuna and urged him to visit. So he packed his stuﬀ into his wood- paneled truck, and when Bob saw the Eel River Valley he knew he’d never leave. He worked on ranches and did some logging. He was also a custodian at the Humboldt County courthouse for ten years where he played some mischief on the County Veterans Service Oﬃcer at that time, Stephen Gallant, and placed everything on his desk in the opposite direction from seating.
Bob continued his military service for 21 years as a combat engineer with the California Army National Guard, 579th Engineers in Eureka, 12 Bravo, retiring in 1999. As far as working with explosives, he said “it’s the most fun you can have with your pants on; you build shit and blow it up.” His evaluation reports say it all: “A real go-get-em attitude. Truly concerned about people in the unit. Always there for any mission.”
The Kinetic Sculpture Race will no longer be seeing Sarge’s truck with the iconic rubber chicken tied to the front grille. He was a “peon” with June Moxon’s team and did logistics, helping to move their bicycles from place to place during the race and assisting in whatever way he could. His involvement initially came about in 1996 when KHUM needed help for their radio coverage of the race and the National Guard was called. They sent out Bob in what thereafter came to be known as the KHUM-V. He introduced himself and said, “Call me Sarge.” And the name has stuck ever since. His special cookies had quite a reputation within the kinetic family.
Another of Bob’s passions was being involved with the North Coast Stand Down, a three-day event for veterans. In 2006 he started out as a volunteer in pet services where veterans could bring their dogs and cats for veterinarian checkups and supplies. The Stand Down benefitted from Bob’s role as lead coordinator, pet services advisor, and eventually board member. To say he will be sorely missed is an understatement.Music was a big driver in Bob’s life. He enjoyed bluegrass, rock and roll, classic country western, and most any soulful expression. The Blues by the Bay festival was definite party time. He played the trumpet growing up and also sang in the church choir. Bob liked working the land, gardening, and feeding the LFB’s - little fat birds. He gave wonderful foot massages. Kitty cats were a nurturing presence in his life and never ceased to amuse him. He created “Sarge’s Salve” that relieved many a sore muscle. This he gifted to those in need who appreciated its magical powers.
Bob met his partner of the last 17 years, Rebecca (“Reevee”) Rimson, through a mutual friend’s matchmaking, and both their lives were forever enriched. He was capable of unbelievable quantities of aﬀection and love. Bob encouraged Reevee in every facet of her life, always pushing to a higher level.
A great blessing in Bob’s life was Noble Cumming. For many years Bob lived with Lilli Sommer, Noble’s mother, in Eureka. Noble was a young lad of seven and Bob was privileged to see him develop into the fine man he is today. When Noble moved to the east coast, their conversations were a highlight of the week and Bob was so proud of him.
We also want to acknowledge the numerous friends too many to list whom Bob considered family. He held you near and dear to his heart. Please know that you were important to him. Bob was preceded in death by his father, Robert Tolman Gelder; his mother, Mary Bernice Williams; and cousin Janet Harrison.
He is survived by his partner, Reevee Rimson; Reevee’s brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Gina Rimson of McKinleyville, and their children; cousin Judi Scott of Laguna Hills, CA; uncle Bob Williams of Huntington Beach, CA; and Noble Cumming and spouse Nancy Rivera of Brooklyn, NY, and their children.
The family is grateful for the superb teamwork and invaluable care of Hospice of Humboldt and V.A. Home Based Primary Care. We also appreciate our caregiver, Lia, for being on hand and lending a hand.
There will be a Wang Dang Doodle of a celebration of Bob’s life in the warmer days of 2023. If you listen to Koko Taylor’s rendition of the song, you’ll get the flavor.
All Bob asks is, “Remember me with my grin and my hat!”
The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Bob Gelder’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email email@example.com.