OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
Bob Specht was born April 29, 1936 in the German town area of Fresno, California to parents who were first generation Americans of Russian-German decent. His father Kris, was a brandy maker for the Christian Brothers Wine Company. Bob was literally born with a pencil in his right hand, drawing pictures at a very early age and astounding his mother Edna who often said, "There is no one who is artistic in our family."
By the second grade, Bob had attained a 10th grade reading average as he spent most of his time either reading books or drawing pictures. In the 7th grade, his parents enrolled him in an art and cartooning course with the Columbia School of Art that he completed by mail as the school was located in San Francisco. In the 8th grade at Roosevelt High School, Bob took a Couter Career Test that showed his first choice of a career should be a humorist. Cartooning was already his first love, but he never pursued that endeavor. Artists pay at that particular time was paltry, to say the least, but he kept working at his lifelong interest in art.
Bob spent 2 years at Fresno State College majoring in of all things, business. He finally decided to pursue a sales career with Drake Steel Supply in Fresno, after befriending the companyís office manager Al Fox, whose son was an F-86 jet fighter pilot with the Fresno Air National Guard. The Hayward Air Guard in the Bay Area, had recently been transferred to Fresno, as the valley was a lesser target potential in case of all out nuclear war. At that time, the Air Guard had an ongoing campaign to enlist badly needed personnel to fill their ranks. With the urging of 144th CAMRON First Sergeant Henry Tofoya, in April 1958, Bob enlisted with the California Air National Guard at the Fresno Airport, which was called Hammer Field during World War II, when it was a Black Widow P-61 Bomber base.
His first day assignment was to drill 100 other green recruits, like himself, in the art of military marching. Bob began ineptly drilling his fellow recruits out in front of the base hanger as he had been ordered by the busy First Sergeant Tofoya. He mistakenly marched the 100 recruits in front of several "Hot Gun" aircraft whose weapons were fully loaded and parked on the tarmac for immediate take off, in case of an emergency attack. All hell broke loose as aircraft technicians came running out of the hanger yelling to get those people out of that dangerous area. Needless to say, Bob was embarrassed but begged off due to his total ignorance of the danger - but the foopaw really caught everyoneís attention. Marching drills were permanently moved to another area, away from the main hanger after that incident.
Bob spent the last 4 months of 1958 in training at Lackland Air Force Base just outside San Antonio, Texas. He was not required to attend a technical school, after passing a battery of tests that showed, he did not need training as a photomapping specialist that was his Air National Guard career choice. Bob had learned Aviation Drawing while a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School from a former military officer Captain Charles Furby. There were only 2 students enrolled in the aviation drafting course, so Bob had a lot of excellent one on one tutoring by his instructor. By the time he graduated from high school, he had 10 semesters of drafting under his belt plus many semesters of traditional art training. Bob became a member of the 144th CAMRON Squadron of the Air Guard and did most of his various types of drawing in the aircraft hanger of the base. Among his achievements, Bob designed a portable radio tower which was used at locations on and off the base, especially during practice alerts. The Fresno
Air National Guard Base personnel utilized the tower for many years. It was affectionately called the "Peanut Wagon" by base personnel, due to its unusual appearance, created by the use of angular windows to defect glare away from the tower operatorís eyes.
There were several national crises during Bob's Air Guard career, but the one that is most memorable is the Cuban Missile Crisis during October 1962. The Fresno airbase was placed on 24 hour high alert. Only a few of the "need to know" base personnel were aware of Fresno's war target potential as nuclear weapons were stored in earthen bunkers on the north side of the Fresno Airport in large quantities, and contained vast megatons of explosive power. As we all know, the Russians backed down and shipped their missiles back home, but it was a shaky couple weeks for many Fresno Air National Guardsmen.
During his 6 year stint in the Air Guard Bob drafted endless amounts of organizational and functional charts which were used extensively all over the base. He was named FANG Airman of the Month during 1962. Bob's deceased wife Joan, whose father Major Roy A. "Pat" Patterson, was the commander who delivered the first 9 P-38ís to the South Pacific Theatre at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in January, 1943. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for secretly developing the air route and then leading the P-38ís across the Pacific in a B-24 Liberator. Pattersonís plaque is in the Veterans Memorial Museumís Lobby of Honor.
The Spechtís have 3 daughters Vicki, Robin, and Juli who have given them 6 grandchildren. Bob worked as manufacturer rep for RCA Whirlpool for many years and opened Clovis Home Furnishing in 1974, operating that business until he retired July 1, 1992. Upon retirement, Bob began doing self - taught digital artwork and video on a Mac computer. It was amazing to him that art and video could now be created electronically. He had one of his videos presented on a CBS network show called "PrimeTime for Pets" about a dog named Piston who attempts to drive and fix cars.
Bob joined the Legion of Valor Museum in April, 2000, and began working with Director Chuck Monges as office manager. An interesting side note, Chuck Monges was employed for several years in the sales department by Bob's younger brother Ken at Liberty Chevrolet in Selma, CA. Itís a small world! Upon the passing of Chuck Monges in 2001, Bob became the museumís Deputy Director under Director Art Hill. After taking a debilitating fall which ended Mr. Hillís ability to continue, Bob was elected April, 17, 2012 as the Director and CEO of what is now the Veterans Memorial Museum, ďHome of the Legion of ValorĒ.