A memorial Sunday at the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department station honored the life and service of the station’s retired fire chief, who died Sept. 7 at the age of 76.
Robert “Bob” Somerville served Fortuna’s volunteer fire crews for 37 years, holding the title of fire chief for 16 of them. At his Sunday memorial, uniformed U.S. military personnel and honor guards fired rifles in commemoration of his service in the Korean War, during which he worked as a repairman aboard the USS Hector.
Somerville’s official first name was Robert, but he was known by a variety of nicknames, including Bob, Bobby and Leroy — the last being an affectionate name Somerville was called by his late wife, Valerie, who herself died in 2002. The couple was married for 47 years.
“Anchors away and bon voyage, Machinist Mate Second Class Robert Somerville,” said a military honor guard representative, referring to Somerville’s military title. “On this final sail may you have fair winds and following seas.”
Somerville built his own home in Fortuna, where he lived for the remaining 62 years of his life, according to his obituary. He enjoyed fishing, deer-hunting and vacationing with family and his beloved dogs.
Speakers at the memorial remembered Somerville’s passion for community firefighting, along with his affability and love of soap operas.
Somerville’s great niece, Amanda Berry, spoke of his affinity for “John Wayne,” remembering the various stories he would tell on family camping trips.
A classic country firefighter song, “A Voice Missing From Roll Call,” played over the speakers as loved ones said goodbye to “Chief Bob,” as he came to be known in Fortuna.
Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.