James Robert Van Wagner
James Robert (“Bob”) Van Wagner passed away peacefully at his home on January 6, 2021 at the age of 93. Born in Santa Monica, CA, Bob was a proud World War II veteran who joined the US Navy at the age of 17. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Boxer and deployed to the Western Pacific before his honorable discharge in 1946. After leaving the Navy, he attended Santa Monica City College where he studied to become an electrician. He moved to Santa Barbara in 1955 and met his wife, Barbara Hansen, from Beloit, WI. They married in 1956 and have remained in Santa Barbara ever since, raising two children: Ginger and Barry.
Bob worked for nearly 30 years at Point Mugu Pacific Missile Test Center in Port Hueneme. There he rubbed shoulders with Government photographers who supplied him with photos rarely seen publicly of visiting presidents and other dignitaries. He loved to share these photos with friends. Probably a surprise to many who didn’t know Bob well, or who’d experienced his crushing handshake, was his soft heart for any animal, especially animals in distress.
But every weekend – and during the week if he could get away with it – Bob was a devoted East Beach volleyball fixture. “Set me!” and “It’s Point Time!” were his favorite sayings. From early days in Santa Monica, then at Hermosa and Redondo Beaches, he fell in love with the sport of beach volleyball. When he arrived in Santa Barbara, beach volleyball and the abundant courts at East Beach became his passion. Bob especially enjoyed chronicling the beach volleyball scene through his amazing photographs, with many photos freely given to anyone who asked. He was a long-time tournament director for the Semana Nautica annual volleyball open and an accredited US Volleyball Association referee and umpire. In November 2019, Bob was inducted into the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame, a crowning achievement for his lifelong passion.
Bob is survived by those he loved: his wife Barbara; his two children Ginger and Barry (Emily); a half-brother Gary (Jan) in Newark, TX; and two half-sisters Anita (Frank – deceased) and Marilyn (Ken) in Homedale, ID and Vista, CA, respectively.
No services are planned at this time due to the pandemic. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to your favorite charity. And he’s still got winners at East Beach.