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ROBERT RANVILLE HART(1947 - 2012)

Robert Ranville Hart, 65, passed away on Sunday, November 4, 2012 at the family home in the presence of his wife Margie, his daughter Jen, and his ever-present companion Stella.

He was born in Mount Vernon, WA on January 23, 1947 to Ranville Ernest and Margaret Jennings Hart.

He attended La Conner Schools and followed his four years at Pacific Lutheran University with four years serving in the US Navy.

Bob was a very proud fourth generation Skagitonian; his great grandparents, Isaac and Margaret Jennings, arrived with their children in 1871 from New Jersey. The current family farm was purchased in 1884 and the home was built in 1914 as a wedding gift for Bob's grandparents, Louis and Ethel Shields Jennings. The Jennings grew primarily oats, hay, potatoes and cattle while reclaiming their land from the Skagit River to make the soil viable for farming.

In 1940 Margaret Jennings married a florist and nurseryman, Randy Hart, and Hart's Nursery was created; starting their family of 5 children. Thirty years later Robert would return from the Navy, after his mother's death, to help out on the farm. He expanded the retail nursery, now Christianson's Nursery, and created the grounds of the homestead into a display garden, La Conner Flats, to indulge his gardening passions and educate the public on our unique climate and growing traditions.

Any perfect day for Bob would start out on the Samish, catching his limit and being home before most people woke up. Bob thrived on learning and sharing his knowledge with any enthusiastic listener. He loved history especially of the Skagit Valley and of his own genealogy. He was excited to be in contact with family back east and had looked forward to visiting the original Jennings' farm in New Jersey. He had amassed stories and histories from generations of Skagit farmers and could spout off the history of any piece of land in the Flats. Working with the Seattle Culinary Academy every summer invigorated him, as well as our wonderful group of "Geezers", with energy from younger generations excited about farming, growing and utilizing fresh produce from The Magic Skagit. Above all Bob was passionate about preserving the farming community here in the Skagit Valley and wanted nothing more than to see his family farm be preserved for generations to come.

Bob believed that public service teaches the importance of listening and that observing teaches how systems work successfully. He served as Skagit County Commissioner, Chair of the Office of Farmland Preservation, President of Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, Commissioner for Drainage & Irrigation District #15, was an advisor to the Seattle Culinary Academy Sustainable Food Systems, served on the La Conner School Board, the Salem Lutheran Church council, the Skagit Mental Health Advisory Committee, the Skagit County Community Action Agency board, the Municipal Research Service Center, Rotary Club of La Conner, Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association, WSDA Future of Farming Committee. He was always quick with a smile, a laugh or an encouraging word, creating a generous legacy for generations to follow.

He was preceded in death by two brothers, Ross Frederick Hart in 1987 and Donald Jennings Hart in 1991 and a stepdaughter, Leann Gilbert in 2005.

He leaves behind his wife Marjorie E. Hart of Mount Vernon; a son and his wife Thomas R. and Cheryl Hart of Bell, FL and their three sons; a daughter and her husband Linda J. and Todd Reilly of Aurora, CO and their three children; a daughter B. Jennings Hart of Mount Vernon; two sisters, Martha White of Stanwood, WA and Linda Taylor of Prosser, WA; two stepsons John Gilbert of Granite Falls, WA and James Gilbert of Everett, WA and a stepdaughter Catherine Gilbert of Stanwood, WA; Nephews Matthew T. Mussivand of Fir Island, WA, George Taylor of Prosser, WA, and Duane Warsinske of Wenatchee, WA and a niece Annie Taylor of Prosser, WA; many extended family including grandchildren, great grandchildren, nephews & nieces.

Bob was a caring mentor and friend to many, a man of the Land, a friend of the People, and most notably a man of God.

Services will be held on Saturday, November 17th 2pm at Salem Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon, WA (Hoag Road & LaVenture). His interment at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery will be a private ceremony at a later date.

In lieu of flowers his family requests memorial donations be made to Skagit Cancer Care Center, Skagit Hospice, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, or Salem Lutheran Church.

Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company on Nov. 10, 2012
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