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Robert Giffen Lynch

May 28, 1925 January 14, 2019
Robert Giffen Lynch
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Obituary for Robert Giffen Lynch

Robert Lynch, a 20-year resident of Smith River, passed away on January 14th from long life, just 10 days after his wife Tommie had passed. Known to his friends and family as Bob, he was born in San Francisco, California in 1925. He spent much of his youth growing up in Santa Cruz and in a cabin in nearby Big Basin.

His father, James G. Lynch was a career Navy man who served in the Spanish, American War, World War I and World War II. His dedicated service, inspired Bob to enlist as soon as his age would allow. He joined the Navy in in 1943 and was trained as an electrician’s mate. He served during World War II at Chesapeake Bay on a mine research barge until 1946. His company was in charge of developing mine sweeping technology. He had many stories of major turning points in his life from the Navy and looked on his service as a high point in his life for building confidence, skills and responsibility.

Soon after his Naval service, he enrolled in Principia College in Elsah, Illinois and majored in history. He was fascinated with all the stories from the past and in particular stories from the sea. He graduated with his degree in history in 1950. In 1951 he earned his Master of Arts degree in Maritime History from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. In 1955 he was offered a special enrollment in the 1st Maritime History class at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. He always said this opportunity opened new doors for him.

It was his time at Mystic Seaport that led him to join the Drake Navigators Guild in 1956. The Guild is dedicated to researching the voyages of Sir Francis Drake and in particular his landing on the California Coast. Bob was an active member up until the day he passed even providing more research from his extensive library the day before he passed.

Bob began teaching in 1953, with a one-year post in Bieber, California, teaching 5th and 6th grade. The next year, he moved to Gridley, California to teach at Gridley Union High School from 1954 - 1985. He taught English, math, History, American Government. His main focus in his later years was the latter, becoming the teacher every student had for American Government. He insisted students learned the importance of civic engagement by requiring attendance at 2 public meetings to earn honor grades of A or B.

It was at Gridley High School that he met his future wife, Tommie. They were married in 1966 and had two children. He also adopted Tommie’s daughter from her first marriage. The family lived for the next 30 years just outside of Gridley on 2 1/2 acres that they made into plentiful garden and orchard. Bob delighted in “horse trading” fruits and vegetables for other needs like rice and beef from other farmers in the area.

After retiring from teaching in 1985, he wasn’t ready to rest. He went to work for two different hardware stores. A “jack of all trades, “ he once again was teaching, but this time as “Mr Fix it!” People would ask for him for help because he knew all the tools and how to use them for a multitude of projects. He had knowledge of carpentry, electricity, plumbing, basic blacksmithing, bicycle assembly and repair, gardening and orchard care.

He continued civic engagement by serving on both the Gridley and Butte County Planning Commissions for a total of 14 years. He also served others by being a member of Kiwanis in multiple locations from 1956 - 2003. He was a volunteer leader for the West Gridley 4-H club, teaching electricity and woodworking. He and his wife were awarded “Couple of the Year” in 1996 from the Gridley Chamber of commerce for their many years of dedicated service to the community.

In 1999, he, his wife Tommie and their son Jim moved to Smith River to be closer to their daughter Cerina and to enjoy the lovely climate. He was a member of the Smith River Kiwanis club from 1999 - 2003. While living in Smith River, he was also one of the original volunteers for the Smith River Library as well as volunteering for the Smith River Heritage Association. Not surprisingly, he became a member of the Del Norte Historical Society.

He loved spending time with and mentoring his grandchildren, Alex and Zara. Everyone enjoyed his songs and stories from his life or historical events at every occasion. He was a font of knowledge, wisdom and kindness.

Bob is survived by his daughter, Cerina Gastineau; son, James Lynch; and his grandchildren, Alex and Zara Gastineau.

Bob requested donations be made to the St. George Reef Life Preservation Society: SGRLPS, P.O. Box 577, Crescent City, CA 95531, Attn: Guy Towers or Bill O’Donnell. Their phone number is 707-464-8299.

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