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Posted on August 5, 2009 | 8:49 p.m.

Robert Allan ‘Bob’ Svoboda, 1926-2009

Memorial service will be Saturday for the entrepreneur and philanthropist

Source: Noozhawk Obituary Desk

Robert Allan “Bob” Svoboda, age 83, went to be with our Lord and Savior on July 21, 2009, as a result of sudden cardiac death.

Bob is survived by his wife, Jean. They were planning to celebrate 60 years of marriage on September 11th. Also, he is survived by daughter Kathy Clester and her husband, Arlin, of Atlanta; son Tom and his wife, Marlene, of Atlanta; grandchildren Katie, Jalene, Patrick; and great-granddaughter Haylie; and a sister, Carol Ventrell of Billings, Mont.

Bob was born in Lewistown, Mont., on May 12, 1926. He was preceded in death by his parents, Herman and Nell Svoboda, and a sister, Marcelyn.

Robert Allan
Robert Allan “Bob” Svoboda

During his youth, Bob lived in Danvers, a small prairie town located near Lewistown. When he was 6 years old, he suffered an accident on a horse that caused him to spend three years wearing a body cast and walking with crutches. This was the beginning of his “I can do it” attitude.

Immediately after high school, Bob served in World War II in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy Amphibious Forces as a signalman aboard an attack transport. He participated in the liberation of the Philippine Islands, landed the first day with invasion forces on Okinawa, and landed with occupation troops in Japan shortly after the two atomic bombs secured the unconditional surrender of Japan in September 1945.

After his Naval service, Bob returned to Montana to attend the University of Montana in Missoula, where he was active in debating, public speaking and the SAE fraternity. He met Jean Kaiser, also a student, on a blind date and in 1949 they were married in Missoula. Later that year, Bob earned a BA degree with a major in Finance and Banking and earned a Gold Medal and Honors award for competing in inter-collegiate debate competitions.

During the early 1950s, Bob bought and expanded an insurance brokerage and commercial/agricultural real estate firm in Billings, Montana. He was also one of the founders of First Montana Title Co., the first title insurance company in Montana. During this time he was on the original board of directors for Yellowstone Boy’s and Girl’s Ranch, a facility for troubled youth. It remains today one of the most successful programs of its kind in the United States.

Bob sold his several business interests in the 1960s and moved the family to Honolulu, Hawaii. He was recruited by American Factors Ltd. (Amfac), the largest diversified conglomerate in Hawaii to become general manager of Amfac’s Property Division in charge of developing its nonagricultural real estate. His first project was developing the Silverado Country Club in Napa Valley. He then developed Kaanapali Beach Resort on Maui, which was the first planned destination resort in Hawaii.

Soon thereafter, Bob went into business for himself in Hawaii. He and a close friend built the first hotel time-share in the United States, with Hilton Hotels as the operator. He built and maintained the first high-rise Rodeway Inn in Hawaii. He also founded Lincoln Mortgage & Thrift, as well as developing several other commercial properties.

In the 1970s, Bob and Jean moved to Santa Barbara. Instead of their original intention of retiring, Bob decided to attend the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University. That was a springboard for his decision to purchase a financially troubled industrial bank and directing its growth into a major financial institution that was later sold to Cal-Fed. In 1989, Bob and Jean purchased an apartment in Hawaii, which allowed them to renew and maintain friendships from the previous years of living in Honolulu. Bob then retired in 1991.

Bob and Jean have been actively involved and financially supportive of many Christian ministries and politically conservative organizations and causes. Bob served on numerous governing boards of churches and nonprofit service organizations. He enlisted the Honolulu police chief, Dan Liu, to invite Billy Graham to Hawaii for a crusade. The year-long preparation culminated in a seven-day crusade and it had great spiritual impact in the Islands. He served as the disaster preparedness chairman for the Red Cross, and helped to develop what is now Elings Park.

Bob and Jean founded and continue to sponsor the Debate and Speech Contests at Westmont College. The Reagan Ranch Leadership Academy also was the vision and creation of Bob.

Bob recently wrote, “Believe me when I write that I have had a better life than I could ever have scripted for myself. God brought Jean and me together in 1948 to love and support each other, and to create a loving family. That’s what happened ... what more could I want?

“In addition to my loving family; I have been blessed with living a life of joy in my faith, and a sense of fulfillment in my vocational activities. I have been given a long and healthy life to do, to go, and to be and to see, and now I truly look forward to catching up with my family members and friends already in Heaven.

“When I go to be with our Lord in Heaven, I go knowing one of Jean’s and my greatest desires has become a reality; our children living lives as Evangelical Christians and patriotic Conservatives. Hallelujah and God Bless America!”

To donate in Bob’s memory, the family asks that you donate to the Deacon’s Fund of El Montecito Presbyterian Church or a charity of your choice.

A private graveside service was held July 27, 2009. A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 8, 2009, at 11 a.m. at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, 1455 East Valley Road, Montecito. Parking is limited. Shuttle service will be provided from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 1300 East Valley Road.


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