Just after midnight on July 2, Bob von Hein relaxed his tenacious grip on life and walked out into the orchard of his dreams, where the cherries and apples and plums and persimmons hang always ripe and ready for picking. During his over 94 years of life, Bob was in turn a farm hand, a stock runner, a janitor, a gas station attendant, a hobo, a seaman, a machinist, a gardener, a brine shrimp egg collector, a tropical aquarist, a car mechanic, a camp counselor at Camp Mather in Yosemite, a children's playground manager, an orchard man extraordinaire. He explored the deserts of California, Nevada and Utah, built a dune buggy out of a Harley motorcycle and airplane tires to navigate the salt flats of Great Salt Lake. As a seaman he fished for cod in the Bering Straits on the last of the four-masted sailing schooners, traveled to the Far East and South America on cargo ships, visited the Port of Shanghai during the Japanese occupation of China. He collected fossils and rocks from all across the western US, operated an international tropical fish food business, made the best apple juice you ever tasted. He raised honeybees, seahorses, apples, cherries, plums, prunes, berries and every kind of vegetable you can name. Ever an adventurer, in 1945 he totally rebuilt his 1930's Packard, packed up the wife and two small daughters and headed off for more than a month-long trek throughout Mexico, venturing places where he and his family were the first North Americans the locals had ever seen.
Bob was a unique individual. Born in Seattle, adopted at birth, his divorced mother did her best to raise him singlehandedly during the onset of the Depression. He lived in the Northwest and Midwest with various relatives until he had enough and hopped his first freight train out of town. He ended up in San Francisco, where he worked various odd jobs until he managed to get on board a ship; the next few years were spent as an Able-Bodied Seaman, traveling the world's oceans, learning to sail and fish for cod. A man of fierce stubbornness and independence, he made many fast and faithful friends and a few enemies as well. With his cherished wife Ginny by his side, he raised three daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area until the post-WWII population boom sent him looking for some space of his own. In 1962 Bob, Ginny and their two youngest daughters moved to Dunsmuir, California. In this beautiful little town, they settled on the eastern side of the canyon in the old Cornish estate. For the next forty-seven years Bob and Ginny pruned the orchard, weeded, dug and planted the terraces and gardens, harvested, canned, froze and dried a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, ground out gallons of apple juice and myriad jars of jams of all colors and combinations. The big house on the hill was full of friends and family; evenings were spent making music, with Bob accompanying on the harmonica. There were epic games of Perquacky (Bob usually won). Every visitor was taken on the "tour" of the orchard and garden and no one left the von Hein's empty handed. You had to take some jam, some juice, a potted maple tree, a bunch of dried money plants or Chinese lanterns. If you stayed the night, you were treated to a breakfast of fresh and canned fruit, waffles with nine kinds of jam and home-gathered honey (maple syrup was not allowed!). Every child who spent time with Bob was impressed with the importance of appreciating all natural wonders, of the joys of growing and preparing one's own food, of the miracles of honeybees and brine shrimp, of the imperative that Nature must be treated with total reverence and respect, and most important of all, of the absolute necessity that you clean your plate. With Bob's mentoring, many children first experienced the joy of watching a Monarch butterfly emerge from its' chrysalis, of tasting a dried fig, of looking through a microscope at the universe of life in pond water.
Bob leaves behind his wife and companion of over 72 years, Ginny, and his three daughters, Jacquie, Dione and Laurie. No services are planned at this time. In Bob's memory, we simply ask that you taste something you have never tasted before, take that spider outside and set it free, appreciate every bird's song, pick a piece of fruit right off the tree and savor each juicy bite, recycle and reuse everything, and donate generously to environmental organizations of your preference.