Robert Henry Britt
Some people remember his three sawmills. Others might recall the hardware store on Hubbard Lane in Eureka in the early 1960s. Stock car fans watched him win numerous races at Redwood Acres, feats he usually accomplished without cheating. Mostly, those who knew Bob Britt remember a man who worked hard, played harder, and was quick to lend a hand along with his wife Shari, who was also his rudder.
Born May 31, 1935, Bob passed away at his home in Eureka on Feb. 7, with his loving wife Shari at his side. He was 85.
Courting Shari when he was 14 and she was 13, Bob would walk or hitch-hike to her house, or find her at the Muni and ask her to skate, until she said yes. He lettered in five sports and became student body president at Eureka High; she was his student body (and lifelong) secretary. They married two weeks after she graduated and, all told, spent 70 years together.
Bob was a builder. If something needed designing, fixing or constructing, he just did it. He engineered and welded together sawmills and groundbreaking manufacturing equipment that processed logs and lumber faster, wasting less. With friends, he built cars, houses and cabins. He built bridges in the woods behind his house, the last one a 30-foot-long Golden Gate-themed span, at age 80, for Shari's 4-wheeler so she could avoid a ravine. In recent years he built a massive and intricate model train with scenes of California industries including, of course, a logging operation and running sawmill.
Many of his descendants feel his DIY blood in their veins.
Bob built faster race cars, too. Old No. 16 (later No. 1) was an innovator. He claims to have pioneered affixing sheets of Saran Wrap on the windshield, tethered by string through the driver's window, so he could pull them off, layer by layer, to see more clearly during a particularly muddy or dusty race. Only once did he admit to sticking an outsized Corvette engine into his stock car, winning the A-main and then being disqualified for refusing to remove the padlock on the hood for post-race rules inspection.
The stock car driver even built racetracks. On bare land just north of the Indianola cutoff, he constructed the 101 Speedway, a short-lived short track that drew races temporarily away from Redwood Acres in 1968. The wind off Humboldt Bay created an unforeseen, miserable dust bowl, and the track had an outside crash wall that was so strong it wrecked a half dozen cars in the very first practice. With the help of volunteers, Bob acquired an adjacent bit of land and in 10 days built a second track.
Through much of his life, Bob hunted and fished with countless friends old and new. In the 1950s, he gained family fame at the top of a three-man pyramid of water skiers that somehow all got up behind a 35-horse outboard at Big Lagoon. Another famous feat was skiing every arm of Shasta Lake — a 3-hour tour — while other boaters passed him beers. He loved skiing backwards, too.
Play was a passion. In his 20s, Bob bought a boat while dead broke with two kids and no job. "The more you spend, the more you make," he said often. In his 80s, he was golfing avidly, with Shari, and once shot his age.
Bob and Shari were a phrase, an inextricable duo, working together to build their businesses, succeed and fail, and always, always, having some fun. Amid passion was a ton of compassion. Bob gave people second chances, helped the willing get back on track. He and Shari welcomed all-comers, at home or at camp. In recent days, friends of the family shared fond memories of hanging out with the Britts at Lake Shasta, Trinity Lake, in Willow Creek, or at the house in Eureka. They spoke of how Bob and Shari impacted their lives and even influenced how they raise their own families.
Bob was preceded in death by his daughter Cindy Blanc, his parents Margaret and Milton Britt, his younger sisters Bonnie Tanferani and Karen Bradshaw, and his younger brothers Tony and Russ.
He is survived by Shari, his daughters Lori (Jeff) Patterson and Patti (Travis) Campbell, his son Rob (Nadine), his son-in-law Gary (Connie) Blanc, and 14 grandchildren: Matt (Marissa) Blanc, Brian Blanc, CJ (Jessica) Blanc, Courtney Blanc; Jamie (Mana) Gomes, Kate Gomes, Jonah (Vanessa) Gomes, Joel (Melissa) Patterson; Yacine Boraie, Nourie Boraie, Marius Britt; Kirbi Campbell, TJ Campbell, Remy Campbell. Add in 11 great-grandchildren: Brinley, Brayden, Kellen, Tucker, Kately, Kenzo, Cevaun, Matty, Xander, Maia, and Delaney, plus numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Bob Britt, aka Grandpa Bob (and "Hank" to his late brother Russ) wanted everyone to take one bit of inspiration from his life: Work hard and be your best at whatever you do.
Knowing that cancer had numbered his days, but still of sharp mind and in good spirits, Bob had the chance in recent weeks to spend quality time with family and to say goodbye, asking grandkids one last time what they were up to and offering familiar stories and fresh life advice, and handing out his last to-do's.
Echoing what many of his loved ones were thinking, Bob mused out loud during one of his final cocktail hours with a smoke: "I just can't believe Bob Britt is dying." He truly was a legend, even in his own mind.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you donate to Hospice of Humboldt, Phoenix Children's Hospital, or your favorite charity
. There will be no formal service at this time, but Bob and his family have planned—you guessed it—a private, virtual gathering.