Robert “Bob” Clarence Stickley died Jan. 1 in Sonoma, California, from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 81 years old.
Stickley was born in Laramie, Wyoming, Oct. 2, 1935, in the midst of the Depression. He was raised by his parents, Clair and Rose, on a cattle ranch south of Laramie. Despite the hardship of the times, his childhood was a happy one even if, by his account, he had “too many chores.” He felt fortunate because their house had electric lights—albeit just a few light bulbs and a radio powered by car batteries connected to the ranch’s windmill.
During World War II, Stickley’s father took on additional work as a brakeman for the Union Pacific Railroad, enabling the family to save money and eventually buy irrigated farmland in Yakima Valley. The family moved there in 1947 and Stickley graduated from Sunnyside High School in 1953.
After graduation, Stickley joined the U.S. Air Force and trained as an electronics technician. He served four years in the Air Defense Command, repairing radars, radios and instrument landing systems on fighter jets. After active duty, he attended the University of Washington and the University of Wyoming. To supplement his G.I. bill benefits, he worked as a ranch hand on the Dinwiddie Ranch near Centennial, Wyoming. Ranch owners Violet “Vi” and Jack Dinwiddie never had children and embraced Stickley as their own.
After graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1961 with a degree in electrical engineering, Stickley worked for various defense contractors in Connecticut and California. A job offer from Boeing in 1967 brought him back to Washington. He worked for Boeing for the next 28 years, spending 14 on one project: the inertial upper stage rocket, which placed satellites in geosynchronous orbit necessary for GPS and other applications.
He married Judith Phare in 1969 and together they raised three children in Maple Valley. After retiring from Boeing in 1995, they built a timber-frame home on the Key Peninsula. They lived there happily until Bob lost Judy to brain cancer in 2010. He was also preceded in death by his parents, Rose and Clair, and his brother, Harley.
Bob is survived by his children, Shelley Carver of Manhattan, Kansas; Robb Stickley of Napa, California; and Jakob Stickley of Bremerton, his four grandchildren, Robert, Carys, Serena and Amelia, his son-in-law, Lt. Col. Casey Carver, U.S. Army, and daughter-in-law Monica.
There will be a private service at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Maple Valley. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the University of Wyoming, College of Engineering.