Robert ‘Bob’ Sollen

Date of Birth

September 29, 1921

Date of Death

May 10, 2019

Robert ‘Bob’ Sollen, passed away peacefully at The Californian on De La Vina Street, on Friday, May 10, 2019.  He  was born on September 29, 1921, in Menominee, Michigan to  Henning and Agnes Sollen.

After attending local public schools, he entered the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1941.  His University education was soon interrupted for four years while he served in the U. S. Coast Guard during World War 11.

Returning to the University of Wisconsin after the war, Bob was a reporter and columnist for the Daily Cardinal, the student newspaper in 1947-48.  He graduated in 1948 with a major in political science and a minor in journalism.

From 1948 to 1951 Bob covered federal agency offices and the federal district court in Milwaukee for the Milwaukee Journal (now the Journal Sentinel).  He married Jeanne Riha in 1950 and they traveled in East Asia on an independent writing tour from November 1951 to August 1952.

For the next decade, Sollen worked for several California community newspapers and in May of 1963, he was employed by the Santa Barbara News-Press.  In 1968, he was assigned to report on offshore oil industry activities. In 1969, he covered the oil well blowouts off Santa Barbara, sometimes described as the dawn of the environmental movement. 

Sollen was a full-time environmental reporter until his retirement in 1985. Upon his retirement, he was invited to prepare and conduct an environmental journalism course in the UCSB Environmental Studies Program.  He conducted the course biennially from 1986 to 1990 and continued writing independently on political, environmental and social issues.

Bob and Jeanne divorced in 1969.  May, 1970, he married Tomika Shibutani who passed away October 17, 2016.

For more than 30 years, Bob and Tom travelled widely  throughout the United States and abroad, visiting many regions of Asia, Europe and Mexico.

For their work and interest in natural resource conservation, Bob and Tomika were honored by environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Center, and Community Environmental Council.

Bob also served on the County Planning Commission from January 1989 to June 1991. He was a volunteer member of several boards of environmental groups and served on several county advisory committees.  Sollens book, An Ocean of Oil: A Century of Political Struggle Over Petroleum Off the California Coast, was published by Denali Press in 1998.

There were no children from either of his marriages.  A sister, Esther, died in 1955. Nephews and nieces on Tomikas side, were a joy to both of them and reached out to them faithfully! He and Tomika spent their last years under the watchful loving  care of Abundant Care in Santa Barbara for which we are most thankful.  We are also deeply grateful for the expert care and compassion of Dr. Sim, The Californian, and visiting nurses. Shortly after Tomikas death, Bob returned to his childhood faith and began attending Summerland Presbyterian Church.

Donations, in Bob’s memory, can be made either to Summerland Presbyterian Church  P.O. Box 475 Summerland, CA 93067 and/or Community Environmental Council, 26 E. Anapamu, 2nd floor.

A memorial will soon follow.  Please contact Diana Lippert for information (805) 448-8282


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.