Robert Charles Esterbrooks

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Esterbrooks, Robert Charles "Bob"
Robert Charles "Bob" Esterbrooks, a native Californian who grew up in farming communities to become one of the nation's most honored civil engineers and a Two-Star Admiral in the United States Navy, died January 3 at his Point Loma convalescent home. Bob was 88, a victim of Alzheimers, but the disease and years could not diminish a lifetime of public service, military leadership, and unwavering, genuine interest in everyone he met. Born in Glendale, California, in April, 1924, Bob enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and began Naval Officer training and a civil engineering degree through the Navy wartime V-12 program at the University of Texas. He was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps in 1945, which began a 42-year commitment to the Navy, active duty and reservist, culminating with Bob's promotion to Flag rank, commanding all Naval Reservists construction and civil engineering in the Western United States. His Naval Reserve service took him through all possible command billets from platoon commander to Brigade Commander. His Rear Admiral shoulder boards were presented by the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt and U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. But Bob's principal engineering service was performed through his civilian day jobs - in support of major local governments. His government service started in the City of Los Angeles, followed by seven years in San Diego as Assistant City Engineer (1959-1966). He left San Diego to become City Engineer for the City of Phoenix in Arizona. After three years Bob was made "an offer I couldn't refuse" to take the position of County Engineer and Assistant County Manager for Public Works for Maricopa County, Arizona, where he worked for the next 20 years until retirement in 1989. Residing in Phoenix, Bob's skills, leadership and personality carried him to the highest levels of civilian and military life. Maricopa County, with more than 9,200 square miles and a population more than 4 million, is one of the largest in the U.S. in terms of area and population, and the City of Phoenix is one of the US' largest cities. Most of this growth in population and industry occurred while Bob Esterbrooks was the County Engineer, coordinating growth issues and development with literally every city in the county and with State of Arizona and Federal agencies. Bob's professionalism was a special ingredient in the cooperative framework of agencies working together for a better Arizona. He was creative and constructive - and always fair. That spirit set the tone for agency coordination throughout Maricopa County and the rest of the state during this critical period. Bob was also active in major national professional organizations. He helped create the Arizona Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the Arizona Association of County Engineers (AACE) which today honors his memory with annual "Esterbrooks Awards" to top Arizona County Public Works employees. In addition to the national recognition of Bob Esterbrooks for his responsibilities in the Naval Reserve, he served as National President of American Public Works Association (APWA) and the Public Works Historical Society, as well as National Vice-President for the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Society of American Military Engineers. He was named one of the National "Top Ten" Public Works Leaders of the Year for 1973 and was named National Urban Engineer of the Year by the National Association of County Engineers in 1982 Bob was equally comfortable with corporate leaders, admirals and generals, or the road crews in his county workforce. He knew his crew members and they knew him. He was everybody's best friend. He will be missed by a whole host of dedicated public servants. Married twice, he is survived by daughters Sandy Hanshaw of Point Loma and Linda Castile of Del Mar, son Jim Esterbrooks of San Diego, and five grandchildren. Services are scheduled for February 22 at 11 a.m. at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Alzheimers Disease Association, For additional information please go to:

Published in The Arizona Republic on Jan. 20, 2013
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