Robert (Bob) Powell was born in Spokane, Washington, on April 22, 1924. He passed away Nov. 14, 2020 in Yakima, Washington, at the age of 96. Even though Bob faced many adversities in life, he didn’t allow them to define him. He viewed his childhood as an idealistic “Tom Sawyer” existence. Bob was an overcomer. He was born to a single mom and never met his biological father. He had a large red birthmark on his forehead, which would have been a social handicap for many kids. Bob grew up with very little supervision. At an early age, he was allowed to roam the streets of Spokane. In grade school he worked an agreement with a tavern owner to clean up the tavern on Saturday and Sunday mornings for 25 cents a day plus all the change he could find on the floor. He was happy to have a little change in his pocket and sometimes paid to take a friend to the movies.
Bob’s family moved to Umatilla, Oregon, in middle school where Bob almost drowned teaching himself to swim in the Columbia River. He loved floating the river on a raft, collecting Indian relics, and mining for gold on an island in the middle of the river. His family moved to Grandview, Washington, when Bob was in the eighth grade. His bedroom was an unheated shed out by the alley. Despite his many obstacles, Bob became a star athlete in four sports in high school and class president for both his junior and senior years.
Following graduation in 1943, Bob entered the army and was assigned to the army medical corp. He was a medic during some of the worst fighting in World War II. He was present at many major battles, including Omaha Beach on D-Day and later the Battle of the Bulge. After the war ended, Bob came back to Grandview where he took a job changing oil and lubing cars for an automobile dealership. It was at that time that he met Phyllis Bremerman. They were married on Jan. 22, 1947, and had two sons, Mike (1948) and Ron (1949). At about that time, Bob went to work for the R. H. Smith Oil Distributing Company where he eventually became part owner. In 1959 Bob and Phyllis moved to Goldendale (1959-1998), where he built an OK Tire store and alignment shop. Bob was a hard worker and an entrepreneur. Over time, he would own a number of franchise dealerships. He sold Honda motorcycles, McCulloch chainsaws, and owned a Sears Catalog Store. He built a car wash and had various apartments and duplexes. Bob and three others put in the Goldendale nursing home. He was also involved in helping bring other businesses to Goldendale and the surrounding area, including the Harvey Aluminum Plant and the OK Rubber Plant. In 1998 Bob and Phyllis retired to Yakima where she preceded him in death.
Though he was a successful businessman, Bob did not flaunt his success. He was generous with his money. He quietly gave to people in ways that nobody else knew about. Bob was also a loyal friend. He regularly took a maple bar to one of his friends who was dying of Parkinson’s Disease. Bob would then hand-feed it to his friend small piece by small piece. Bob regularly visited old friends in nursing homes whom few others went to see. He truly cared about people.
Bob taught his sons many lessons about life, including the value of hard work. He had jobs for them to do from an early age. Though he could have bought them new cars to drive in high school, he took Mike to a junk yard to pick out his first car. Mike spent the summer pounding out dents, sanding and preparing the car to be painted. Bob wanted to teach his boys the importance of hard work and the true value of things. He said, “It’s not about the money or the things money can buy. It’s about the fun of the game in making it.”
Bob was a great dad. He was a great role model and teacher. He had a great sense of humor and loved his family. He took his family on yearly summer vacations to the beach, lakes, national parks, and, yes, to Disneyland a couple of times. When his boys were in high school, Bob bought a ski boat so that the family could spend the weekends each summer water skiing on the Columbia River and at various lakes in the state of Washington. These things have left lasting memories.
In 1972 Bob wrote Mike a letter telling him that he had trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior, had been baptized, and bought a new Bible and a Bible commentary. He grew spiritually and became a leader in his church for many years. Though he struggled with questions from time to time, he assured Mike that he had not lost his faith in Christ. We can have reassurance that Bob Powell is in heaven. He is an overcomer.
1 John 5:4-5, 11-13 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? . . . 11And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. 13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Bob was preceded in death by his wife, Phyllis, and a grandson, Maedgen Cecil; as well as his mother, stepfather, three half-sisters, and a half-brother. Bob is survived by his sons Ron Powell of Yakima and Mike Powell of Post Falls, Idaho, as well as 10 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren, and one great-great-granddaughter.