Robert John “Bob” Walli
July 31, 1924-April 13, 2016
Robert John Walli, otherwise known as “Bob Walli” or Bobby, 91, died the morning of April 13, 2016. “He was called home to be with the Good Lord,” his family said. He died peacefully in his sleep at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer with family by his side. A service and celebration of his life was held at the Homer Elks Club, Sunday, April 17, 2016, and was followed by a Color Guard Presentation and reception. Paul Bearers Ero “Steve” Walli, Ero V. Walli, Earling Walli, John Gibson, Pat W. Miller, Cal Forrester, Roy Draves and Alex Sweeney laid him to rest at the Homer Pioneer Cemetery next to his mom and dad, Ero and Lillian Walli, during a graveside service with Pastor Gary Syth.
Bob was born July 31, 1924, to pioneers Ero and Lillian Walli at the Stariski Homestead. He attended school in the old schoolhouse that is now part of the Driftwood Inn, then later at the school on the hill. He described going to school by dog team and hanging his .22 rifle on the wall so that on the way home he could shoot spruce hens and check his trap line. When Bob was 6 years old he stayed with the Harringtons to attend school in Homer. The following year his parents Ero and Lillian purchased the Henry Wells homestead off West Hill and began building the Homer Cash Store where the family would later move.
As a young child he grew up spending winters in Homer and summers at the Stariski Homestead where the family had a fox farm and a fish trap. Bob remembered helping his dad with the nine fox pens they had at Stariski. Bob had many friends throughout the years. He recently remembered his friends in 4th grade for his granddaughter, Eleanor’s, school project as Freddy Svedlund, Virgo Anderson, Freddy Anderson, Karl Anderson, Tommy Munson, Ester Munson, Henry Munson, Shirley Sholin, Bob Sholin, Gail Sholin, Jack Dietz, Ray Dietz, Elsie Dietz, Jane Harrington and Harry Harrington. He completed high school in Anchorage and made fast friends with many of the homesteading families there. When Bob was a young adult he worked on the Jungle Queen under Captain Tom Shelford, on the Monterey under Captain Jack Anderson “Papa Jack,” and on the Princess Pat under Captain Jack Anderson Jr.
Bob joined the service at Fort Richardson when he was 17 years old and attended boot camp in Seward. He had a sharpshooter and radioman qualification and was in the Aleutian Islands Campaign during the invasion of Attu and Kiska when the Japanese occupied Alaska. Bob was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with one bronze star and a World War II Victory Medal. He was a lifelong Charter Member of the Anchor Point VFW, Lifelong Charter Member of the Homer Elks (since 1952), and a member of the Homer American Legion for many years.
When Bob returned home from the war, he worked various jobs around Homer including the Heady Hotel, had a half interest and bartended at the Alaska Husky with Joe Baldridge, and worked with the Road Commission on the road to Homer. During the 1950s and 1960s Bob worked for White Alice Communication, the DEW Line all over Western Alaska, including Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Point Lay, and Barrow, and under Tennessee Miller, opening up the Haul Road to the North Slope. During the late 1960s he worked for the Highway Department at the Salcha Station, the Earnestine Road Station and Thompson Pass. Bob worked in Bellingham in the early 1970s operating cranes at Cherry Point. He joined the 302 Operating Engineers in 1974 and went to work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. He also worked for Crowley Maritime in 1975 as an engineer, hauling pipe from Valdez to Whittier to be railed north. Bob worked various jobs operating heavy equipment and was a crane operator on the Bradley Lake Project. After retiring from the construction industry he kept working and owned various boats and businesses working and fishing all over Alaska.
He was an avid fisherman and hunter. He shot his first moose at 8-years-old with a 25-35 Lever Action Winchester. Bob was also an excellent storyteller. He had a photographic memory and could tell stories about Homer in the 1930s and 1940s like it was yesterday. He had a special ability to visit with folks and tell stories without coming across as a know-it-all or “I’ve done that, too” kind of guy. Bob had a thing about time and was never late and always early for any appointment — sometimes two hours early. He was stubborn, charming, always polite and his manners were gracious. All his doctors, nurses and caregivers commented that even in his last days he was gracious with “please” and “thank you.”
As many of you know Bob worked hard and played hard. He loved to dance, liked pretty girls and cold beer. Wilma Williams remembered Bob giving her dance lessons in the store, dancing up and down the aisles while Loma and Lil changed the records on the phonograph. He was quite the lady’s man, teaching the girls to dance at the Saturday night dances in the early days at the store. He loved music and played in a ragtime band with Benny Bowers, Freddy Svedlund, Ma Svedlund and Pa Svedlund. He played the guitar and the piano, but was known best for his skills on the squeeze box. One of his favorite songs was “My Happiness” by Connie Francis. He enjoyed Patsy Cline, Theresa Brewer, Johnny Horton, Hank Snow, Hank Williams and Don Ho for the song “Tiny Bubbles.” He was known to be charming and kind, with a great sense of humor, and a quick smile; always with a twinkle in his handsome blue eyes.
Bob was married several times but found the love of his life 10 years ago when he married Esperanza. Those years were precious to him. Esperanza remembers Bob as being a warrior, always determined to achieve his goals, a faithful, devoted husband, caregiver; courageous and brave through his last days on this earth. Bob was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend. He enjoyed spending time with friends and family and will be missed dearly.
Bob renewed his baptismal vows in the Lutheran Church on June 29, 2014, and received a final blessing from Pastor Syth before passing.
He is survived by his wife, Esperanza Walli, of Woodinville, Wash.; his sister, Lillian “Blondie” Miller, of Anchorage, Alaska; son, Ero “Steve” Walli, Anchor Point; daughter-in-law, Marie Walli, Homer; son and daughter-in-law, David and Joan Gibson, Seattle; son and daughter-in-law, John and Barb Gibson, Homer; daughter, Robyn White, Oregon; daughter and son-in-law, Carolyn and Marvin Platt, Arizona; step-son, Luis Sanchez, and step-daughter, Erika Sanchez, both of Seattle; granddaughter and her husband, Adrienne and Alex Sweeney, Homer; grandson and his wife, Ero V. and Cheyenne Walli, Valdez, Alaska; granddaughter, Erica Walli, Homer; grandson, Earling Walli, Juneau; granddaughter and her husband, Breanna and Holland Hill, Edmonds, Wash.; granddaughter, Danielle Gibson, Edmonds, Wash.; granddaughter, Sarah Gibson, Shoreline, Wash.; granddaughter, Lacey Gibson Stahl, Everett, Wash.; granddaughter and her husband, Rebecca Gibson and Eric Hutchinson, Spokane, Wash.; grandson, John P. Gibson, Seattle; granddaughter and her husband, Marla White and Nick Payzant, Estacada, Ore.; grandson, John “Johnny” White, Estacada, Ore.; grandson and his wife, Jimmy and Maria Platt, Estacada, Ore.; granddaughter and her husband, Amy Platt and Billy Munds, Estacada, Ore.; 24 great-grandchildren; and his best friend, Roy Draves of Homer.
In Lieu of Flowers please make a small donation to Hospice of Homer, 265 E. Pioneer Ave., Homer AK 99603.
Photos or stories that anyone would like to share with the family can be addressed to the Walli Family, 135. W. Bunnell Ave., Homer, AK 99603.