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S. Robert Bronfen

1931 - 2015

Sanford Robert Bronfen, known as Bob or Bobby to those who loved him, passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 11, 2015. Bob was born in the small industrial town of Lima, Ohio on June 26, 1931. His father died young, so even as a child he helped in the family store. He attended MIT and earned a degree in architecture. While in school he rowed on the lightweight crew on the Charles River. After MIT he volunteered for the draft and was assigned to 8th Army Headquarters in Korea for 16 months where he worked in Army Intelligence. After Korea, he worked in architectural firms in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Phoenix. He continued his studies at UC Berkeley and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he obtained a Masters in City and Regional Planning. Having loved the Southwest, he, his first wife, and their daughter, Tamara, moved to Albuquerque where Bob worked in the city’s Planning Department and served as Chair for the PTA in his daughter’s elementary school. He next worked as a City Planner in San Antonio, Texas and then worked for development companies in Denver and Los Angeles.
He moved to Santa Barbara in 1976. Ten years later, he met Joan Sullivan during a swing dancing class. He asked her for a dance, and six weeks later they were engaged. They married in 1986, and with grace he took on the challenge of being a stepfather to Joan’s three teenagers, Michelle, Hitch, and Lea. One of the highlights of his life in Santa Barbara was joining his wife, Joan, in SCUBA diving. They have dived in many exciting remote places, riding on the backs of giant Manta Rays in the Pacific Ocean and diving to a depth of 175 feet onto a sunken Japanese ship in Truk Lagoon.
In Santa Barbara, he established an architectural office and worked on many different projects, including on the Museum of Natural History and the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. He served on the Santa Barbara Water Commission for about 2 years. Then, after spending a year traveling around North America in their fifth wheeler trailer, he and Joan returned to Santa Barbara. Bob became active in Health Care for All, volunteering tirelessly toward a single payer health care system. He served for over a year on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union. He enjoyed taking adult education classes, exercise classes, golf, visiting the library (he was a voracious reader) and walking his beloved poodle Bojo.
Those who will forever hold Bobby in their hearts include his wife, Joan Sullivan, his daughter, Tamara Ganahl, and Joan’s children, Michelle McDermid, Hitch McDermid, and Lea McKenna. He also has two granddaughters, Robin and Helen, who live in Spokane, Washington near their mother, and four other grandchildren, who are Lea and Michelle’s children. Those who loved Bob will always remember how he gave without measure, he loved without conditions, and he forgave without resentment. We will remember his altruism, his lack of pretense, his easygoing nature, his strong sense of justice, his playfulness, and his intellectual curiosity. The family will hold a private memorial service at a later date.

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