C. Robert Barnum (“Bob”) passed away Monday, December 26, 2022, at the age of 95, with family attending. Bob was born November 26, 1927, to Charles Robert Barnum (“Charley”) and Helen Wells Barnum.

Bob lived a fulfilling and adventurous life that embraced family, business, and politics. After graduating from Eureka High in 1945, with World War II coming to an end, he enrolled with the Merchant Marine Academy at Coyote Point in San Mateo, California, and at Kings Point on Long Island, New York. During his time with the Merchant Marines he visited Korea and Japan, as well as the UK as a navigator on the SS America. Later in life he would look back on that time as fascinating and formative, helping to widen and shape his view of the world.

Upon his return to America, Bob rode the train from Eureka to UC Berkeley with his best friend, Harry Bistrin, and he enjoyed a year at Berkeley as a member of Alpha Delta Phi. Then full circle back to Eureka and a stint at Humboldt State College before venturing into the insurance and real estate businesses.

Sports, especially football and track, were a big part of Bob’s youth. He played both offense and defense for Eureka High Loggers football, shining as a running back. He enjoyed golfing, with a 9 handicap, through his forties, playing locally and at courses on both coasts until deciding to give up the sport to meet the demands of work in the 1970s and later. He was always proud of his uncle, Carleton Wells, who’d been a star running back at Cal in the 1920s, and he never missed watching the Cal/Stanford Big Game. Well into his eighties, he and Pat would travel to Eugene to attend the Oregon Ducks football games, and during college football season it was hard to get him on the phone!

Most importantly, Bob met the love of his life in the summer of 1948 while on the beach at Redway. Pat Boyle was visiting her sister that summer, and Bob was smitten. They wrote many letters to each other while Pat finished her senior year of high school in Westfield, New Jersey. As soon as she graduated, he flew back to meet her for an engagement lunch at the Waldorf Astoria, and they married in August of that year. Thus began their marriage of 73 years, leading to five children: Patricia, Charles III, William, Cathleen, and Janet. Bob and Pat enjoyed many trips abroad, including Europe, where he found an early interest in the construction of the Roman aqueducts. Paris was a favorite destination, which evolved into a desire to learn French. He would agree it was more of a passion than an accomplishment as for years he would ensconce himself most nights after dinner with Annenberg’s French in Action videotapes, Voltaire, and world events followed online via Le Monde.

Bob thought of himself as a “loner” in many respects, preferring a walk in the forest to attending a party. He studied throughout his life, conquering the multi-volume Gibbon’s Rome in the 1960s and continuing to the end with studies of the Constitutional Convention and French Revolution. He enjoyed biographies, with a special interest in the core players of the American Revolution. Also a student of economics, he enjoyed a personal visit to the home of Milton Friedman, whose monetary philosophies he embraced. He played the piano reasonably well, and loved singing, especially while driving on long trips. He and Pat attended the opera and theatre in San Francisco and New York.

With the sudden passing of his father in March 1953, Bob assumed management of the estate, including timberlands, for his mother. This work continued for his mother and family for 70 years.

In 1961, he acquired for his mother a controlling interest in the Eureka Hotel Corporation, which owned the Eureka Inn. At that time, Old Town’s historic Vance Hotel was the spot to be, and Bob wanted to revitalize the Inn. As president of the company, he closed its doors and revised the entire operation, reducing 162 rooms down to 108, adding the Colonnade Room and later the Rib Room restaurant. Bob hired Tom Knowlton (in 1964) and later John Porter (in 1976) to manage the Inn. John ran it until Helen’s passing in 1993.

For decades the Inn was the top destination for holidays, wedding receptions, anniversaries, birthdays and political events. Ronald Reagan appeared there several times. Bobby Kennedy spoke at the Inn just days before his death in Los Angeles in June 1968.

Notably, Bob was an exceptional tree farmer. Appointed by Ronald Reagan, Bob served on the California Board of Forestry in the 1970s. This was a pivotal time during which California adopted its Forest Practice Rules, which became, and remain, the most environmentally stringent such rules in the world. He was offered an honorary status as a Registered Professional Forester, but humbly declined it in favor of those who undertook collegiate level studies and better earned the designation. Nevertheless, Bob was known throughout the timber industry in California as its leading tree farmer. Bob introduced redwood seedlings on the properties he managed even where they had not grown since the last ice age. He did so successfully, and his accomplishments decades ago encouraged other timberland managers to do likewise, thus extending the realm of the sequoia sempervirens. In the last year of his life he directed the planting of more than 25,000 redwood seedlings. Bob believed strongly in the future of the North Coast forest industry. His forest management in Barnum Timber Company leaves a legacy of which he was rightly proud.

Bob enjoyed participating in politics, starting early in the 1940s with Young Republicans. His father attended the 1952 Republican Convention and served as an elector in the Electoral College that same year. Working as Humboldt County’s campaign manager for Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial race in 1966, Bob became a member of Reagan’s “Kitchen Cabinet” of notable California business people. This work continued in 1970 for Reagan’s re-election. Twice Bob and Pat hosted Governor Reagan at their home for fundraisers and exposure to our county’s beauty. In 1976, 1980 and 1984, Bob and Pat attended the Republican Conventions and made many great friends and memories in the process.

A devoted historian of Humboldt County, and a fourth generation native, Bob arranged for history awards in the names of his parents at Humboldt State, awards that grant scholarships annually. At her passing in 1993, his mother donated her home at 8th and H Streets in Eureka to the Humboldt Historical Society. This Queen Anne Victorian was constructed by Helen’s grandfather, Dr. Rueben Gross, in 1903, about the same time he built the Gross Building at 5th and F Streets.

Up until his death, Bob had for some time been the longest-serving member of the Ingomar Club, housed in Eureka’s Carson Mansion. He was active in both the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Eureka Chamber of Commerce for more than 75 years. His many personal and business friendships include Harvey G. Harper, Tom Reed, Herman and Harry Bistrin, Lawton and Charlie Bussman, Red and Ida Emmerson, George and Peggy Schmidbauer, Mel McClean, Dennis Scott, Bob Kleiner, Dave Meyer, Dick Stipovich, Neale Penfold, Hugh Kelly, Mike O’Hern, George Gunderson, Cliff Mitchell, Fred Lundblade, Jr, Rob Arkley, Neal Ewald, and Kurt Kramer.

Upon the passing of Charley in 1953, Bob was fortunate to find a friend and mentor in Fred H. Lundblade, Sr., owner/operator of Salmon Creek Lumber Company. In 1955, Fred and Bob teamed up to purchase the 320-acre Catherine F. Evans Estate, bounded by Campton Road on the north and Herrick Road on the south. Within that area have emerged their gifts of the Eureka Municipal Golf Course in 1959-1960, which included the extension of F Street to become Fairway Drive, as well as construction of the golf pro shop. Bob personally planted the original trees on the Muni Golf Course, and in the last few years provided for a new generation of trees, including redwoods. In 1965, Bob and Fred Lundblade, Jr. agreed to develop the first phase of Lundbar Hills subdivision. There are now more than 220 homes in that neighborhood.

Bob is survived by his wife of 73 years, Patricia Boyle Barnum (Pat), and children Patricia Barnum, Charles Robert Barnum, III, William F. Barnum (Bill, and spouse Monica Cruz Barnum), and Cathleen Barnum Christensen (and spouse Pattison Christensen). He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Janet Boyle Sikora, and her family. He was preceded in death by his daughter Janet Lea Andersen Downing in December 2013. He was also preceded in death by his sisters, Betty Swaner, Mary Drake and JoAnn Storre. He leaves eight grandchildren: Kelsey Barnum Bonilla, Robert Ogden Barnum, Sarah Barnum Poff, Emily Jean Christensen, Jensen Christensen, Marin Christensen Ferris, Paul W. Andersen and Bridget Andersen Lane. Thirteen great-grandchildren survive him: Kealan, Brooklyn, Leilani, Sienna, Lane, Mateo, Cody, Nolan, Greyson, Charlie Ann, Carter, Joshua, and Elle. His 14th great-grandchild is due in January 2023.

The family is grateful for the kind care of Dr. Skye Heston and Dr. Samuel Rose, and the many nurses and aides at St. Joseph/Providence Hospital who gave their best to Bob in his final week of life. Bob and Pat are thankful for and acknowledge the many years of service to Barnum Timber Company by Eddie Mendes, Mike Vogel, RPF, Steve Horner, RPF, Josh Seney and Lori Riddle.

With our family far extended at the new year, a family memorial will be scheduled in Spring 2023. There will be no funeral. Entombment will be private at Sunset Cemetery Mausoleum. Memorial gifts may be made in Bob’s honor to the Humboldt County Historical Society and the Barnum History Awards at Cal Poly Humboldt.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Bob Barnum’s loved onesThe Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email news@lostcoastoutpost.com.