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Memorial for Long Time TVIC Volunteer – Bob DeWalt

Posted on June 19, 2024

Remembering Bob DeWalt

Like most charismatic men, Bob DeWalt stood out, but not because he was particularly gregarious or good looking. The former U.S. Marine and lifelong Tam Valley resident could be gruff and looked like a man who had gone through some trials in life.

What he had that was so alluring, according to everyone who knew him, was heart and soul.
DeWalt, a Vietnam veteran, firefighter, taxi driver, music promoter, film and local theater actor and pillar of the Tam Valley community, spent most of his life looking out for the less fortunate and working to make the world around him a better place. He died on March 4 of a heart attack. He was 78.

Born on Aug. 19, 1945, DeWalt joined the Tamalpais Fire Protection District after graduating from Tamalpais High School. He started out doing grunt work, but quickly made an impression on his fellow firefighters. “When you are in the fire service everyone works hard, but there are individuals you would trust your life to and Bob was one of those people,” said Tad Alvord, 76, of Forest Knolls, who first met DeWalt in the Cub Scouts and remained his best friend throughout their lives. “Bob was one of those guys you could count on. He always did what he said he would do.”

DeWalt left the fire district in 1964 to join the Marines. He was a gunnery sergeant in Vietnam, where he apparently saw plenty of combat and was known among his fellow soldiers as “a badass,” according to his son, Thomas. “My father was a true American war hero who came home and wasn’t treated like a hero,” said Thomas DeWalt, explaining his father’s reluctance to talk about his experiences. “I don’t think Vietnam vets were ever treated like that.”

Alvord said his friend was a proud, patriotic Marine, but believes the “horrible” experiences DeWalt had in Vietnam profoundly changed the way he saw his own life and how he should treat other people. “He was called upon in war to do things that he would never do, and it bothered him,” said Alvord, who wouldn’t reveal the stories he heard out of respect for his friend’s privacy. “I think his kindness was based on that.” Alvord, who remained with the fire district, said DeWalt walked into the fire station after his tour in Vietnam was over in 1973 and declared “I’m back.” He worked as a firefighter for awhile, then began driving a taxi. DeWalt eventually became general manager of the On The Move taxicab business, which included Radio Cab and Belair Cab, in Marin County.

He would often hire people who were down and out or troubled in some way and help them out personally and financially, Alvord said. That, in fact, was a theme in his life after Vietnam. He never bought a new car or a home, but would gladly give everything he had to people in need.

“There weren’t many strangers he would say no to,” his son Thomas said. “He was generous helping people in trouble, sometimes to a fault.”

DeWalt’s distinctive face got him several bit parts in movies and a Kodak television commercial.
He drove a Belair taxi cab in the 1988 Clint Eastwood movie The Dead Pool. He also played a cab driver in the film Farmer & Chase, which came out in 1997. Between movie gigs, he pursued his dream to become a music producer, founding DeTone Productions, a small East Bay company that showcased local talent, mainly Gospel music.

DeWalt served for a time as president of the Tamalpais Valley Improvement Club an organization he was a member of for more than 50 years. He also did a stint as chairman of the Tam Valley Parks and Recreation Commission. He helped produce the annual Rhubarb Revue variety show and was a founder of Creekside Fridays, which featured local music groups, food and beverages during the summer at the log cabin next to Coyote Creek.

He and Carol Buchholz, the longtime parks and recreation director for the Tamalpais Community Services District, founded the annual Murder Mystery play, which features local actors and tasks the audience with picking out the murderer. DeWalt played a very convincing gangster in one murder mystery. DeWalt was involved in everything, Buchholz said, and if he couldn’t do something he would find someone who could, whether it be putting up a sound system, finding costumes or raising donations for the cause. “Bob was in my office almost everyday.  He would sit in a chair, cross his legs and ask me, ‘so what do you need from me today?’ Buchholz said. “He took care of everyone around him in his gruff but loving self. I’ll miss Bobs laugh. His entire body shook.”

DeWalt, who was often seen around town with his little dog, a mutt named Penny, enjoyed taking long trips in his travel trailer with his son and grand children. Disneyland was a favorite destination, but he also traveled the country visiting distant relatives, among them American Indians. None of his friends or family thought much about DeWalt’s Indian heritage until eight or so years ago when he was told by some of those relatives that he was eligible for a share of a court ordered settlement for a scheme to cheat Native Americans in Oklahoma. “He was ecstatic. He thought he’d be getting enough to enhance his retirement,” Alvord said. “I think he ended up getting a total of about $45.” DeWalt and Alvord were “cooking partners” for the TVIC and Creekside Friday events as well as charity functions and brunches at the Marin Rod and Gun Club over the decades. “You won’t find a more loyal, trustworthy friend,” Alvord said. “He was one of the most giving, considerate people you would ever want to know.”

He is survived by his son Thomas and his daughter-in-law Jamie DeWalt, of Clear Lake, and two grandsons.

A memorial service will be held June 22 at the Tam Valley Community Center, 203 Marin Avenue, in Mill Valley.

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