Remembering Bob Breen
An Amazing Legacy of Environmental Stewardship
Bob Breen, who served as Fitzgerald Marine Reserve’s first Supervising Ranger from the Reserve’s founding in 1969 to his retirement in 2004, died of a massive heart attack on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 at the age of 73.
Bob was a soft-spoken man with a ready smile, warm manner, and gentle sense of humor. He was a patient teacher and an extraordinarily good listener.
During his years of employment at FMR, Bob touched the lives of thousands of schoolchildren and other visitors, leading tours of the tidepools and teaching people how to observe nature and care for the environment. He was instrumental in creating the Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and served on FFMR’s Board of Directors until his death.
Over the decades he taught hundreds of volunteers to become naturalists. He launched many young people into ocean science careers by running summer Junior Ranger camps at the reserve. Bob also started the marine science program at Half Moon Bay High School and taught there from 1995-2008. In 2001, the Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve began awarding the Bob Breen Science Scholarship to a HMBHS graduate in Bob’s honor, expanded in 2008 to give a $1000 scholarship to each of two graduating students.
Upon retirement, Bob went back to graduate school and earned a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology. In 2007 he was named as a stakeholder for establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) under the State of California’s Marine Life Protection Act. In the ensuing years he drove hundreds of miles and spent long hours attending meetings, reviewing research papers, and working with other stakeholders. He educated lawmakers and the public on the benefits of MPAs through lectures and interviews, articles and letters and emails.
On May 1, 2010, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve became part of the larger Montara State Marine Reserve MPA. Many of us thought Bob’s work was done — but he didn’t! He continued advocating and educating for the protection of the marine environment, by sitting on the Sanctuary Advisory Council for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and by investigating and speaking about global climate change.
Bob leaves an amazing legacy of environmental stewardship, as well as friendships that crossed generations and circled the globe. His warm smile, patient manner, and incredible depth of knowledge of the natural world and history of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve will be sorely missed. He is survived by his wife Mary, his sons Matthew and Mike, and their families.
A public memorial service will be held at a future date, and we will share that information here. In the coming weeks, we will update this post with links to some of Bob’s videos and articles. In the meantime, you can read more about Bob and his work in the article beginning on Page 9 of the September, 2009 issue of Between the Tides.
See also: Deb Wong’s article and photos in the Half Moon Bay Patch.