Tribal Government & News
Former Tribal Council member Steve Bobb Sr. walks on
(Editor's note: This story has been updated with funeral service information and a comment released by the Grand Ronde Tribal Council.)
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
Former three-term Tribal Council member and Vietnam War-era Marine Corps veteran Steven L. Bobb Sr., whose lifeway took him from being a warrior to an artist to being a vocal advocate for peace, love and understanding, walked on Thursday, Aug. 11, at the age of 73.
He was born on April 7, 1949, to Faye Riggs White and Wilson Bobb Jr. When he was 2 months old, his mother was killed in a car accident and he was raised by his grandparents, Wilson Bobb Sr. and Lena Bobb, on a 240-acre farm where the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department building is now located off Hebo Road.
He attended school in Willamina and left Willamina High three months before he was set to graduate in 1967 and started working for Willamina Brick Plant. He met his wife, Connie, while attending Willamina High and they married in December 1967.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps in the winter of 1968 and went through basic training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., learning to become an ammunition explosive technician.
He was stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C., and then served in Vietnam starting in January 1970. He was placed on guard duty around Hill No. 327 for four and a half months. His assignment included many four-man night and day patrols in the jungle. He also was assigned to work at an ammunition dump, where his job was to detonate reconditioned and unusable ammunition near the Laotian border. Just before leaving Vietnam, he was stationed at a medical unit, where he saw many dead and wounded soldiers.
Bobb returned home in January 1971 and was discharged from the Marine Corps within seven days of leaving Vietnam.
“I am proud of my service and I would not change a thing,” he said, “but it forever changes you as a person.”
He remained committed to veterans’ causes throughout his life, serving on and chairing the Tribe’s Veterans Special Event Board for many years and attending and emceeing the Tribe’s annual Memorial Day celebrations in May and Veterans Powwows held in July.
He also served on Tribal Council from 2007-13 and was re-elected to a third three-year term in 2018. He was often called upon to deliver the invocation before meetings during which he consistently prayed for peace, healing and understanding throughout the world.
After returning to the United States from the war, he started pursuing his passion for art. In 1972, he opened Bobb Art & Design, which specialized in custom auto painting. He also spent several years working as a truck and sign painter.
A recent work was the logo for the McMinnville Wine and Food Classic and he repainted the Bulldog logo in the gym at Willamina High School. In May 2018, Willamina High School awarded Bobb an honorary high school diploma in appreciation for all of his work in supporting the school and community.
In the 1990s, he started sculpting, which led him to designing the West Valley Veterans Memorial, a bronze sculpture on the Grand Ronde Tribal campus that was dedicated in May 2003. He walked the 265-mile Trail of Tears between Table Rocks north of Medford to Grand Ronde in 2002 as a fundraiser for the memorial.
He also created a memorial to loggers who lost their lives on the job in 2006. His work, “View from the Top,” is a bronze statue of a logger at the top of a large tree and is on display at Coyote Joe’s restaurant in Willamina.
The idea came to Bobb while he and wife were driving home to Willamina from the Oregon coast, and the couple saw a memorial dedicated to fishermen lost at sea. “So I thought, why couldn’t we do that same thing with people who had lost their lives in the timber industry?” Bobb said.
He also created the “Visionaries” statue of Restoration figures Merle Holmes, Margaret Provost and Marvin Kimsey that stands in front of the Tribe’s Governance Center and for many years designed Spirit Mountain Casino’s float entry in the annual Grand Floral Parade held in downtown Portland.
Among his many other examples of community involvement, Bobb also dressed up as the Easter Bunny for Tribal Housing’s annual Easter Egg Hunt and became Santa Claus during Tribal Council’s Christmas Party held in December.
“Steve Bobb Sr. was a man of deep faith, a loyal and honorable warrior, caring friend, talented artist, Tribal leader with a ‘get it done’ approach, and a proud Grand Ronde Tribal member,” said Tribal Council in a statement released on Monday, Aug. 15. “Steve left a lasting impression on everyone who crossed his path and impacted the lives of Tribal members no matter where they lived. He was greatly loved, and he will be deeply missed.”
Over the years, he battled rheumatoid arthritis and leukemia. He was diagnosed with the latter in 2010 and had been in remission since 2013. He also was treated for prostate cancer in 2020. The leukemia recently returned and after a valiant fight, Bobb walked on.
He is survived by his wife, Connie, of Willamina; three sons, Steve Jr., Billy and Cory; and 10 grandchildren.
In a March 2018 profile that appeared in Smoke Signals, Connie Bobb said that although her husband may not have always showed it, he cared deeply about people.
“He has a real passion to help veterans and, as he has gotten older, he has become a lot more caring about people,” she said.
“In my older age now, I have found out that it is not about what you acquire or may not acquire,” Bobb said in 2018. “As long as you have the love of family and friends, you shouldn’t sweat the other stuff.”
Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, at the Tribal gym and be followed by a gravesite service at the Tribal Cemetery. Dallas Mortuary Tribute Center is assisting the family.