‘To know Bob Kallman is to know what the salt of the earth really is. If you look up integrity in the dictionary, you will likely see his picture.’ —Don Barthelmess, son-in-law of Robert Kallman
One of the most important community leaders in the second half of the 20th century, Robert Kallman, has passed, just short of his 88th birthday.
A man of many civic accomplishments, Bob Kallman distinguished himself throughout his community and at all levels of government from local, county, and state to federal appointments, serving under three presidents.
Bob grew up in Santa Barbara, the son of hard-working Swedish immigrants who came here after the turn of the century and established a nursery. Father Bert Kallman, who was head of the Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Barbara Horticultural Society, launched the annual Santa Barbara Orchid Show and donated the roses which formed the Mission Rose Garden.
At 18, Bob joined the Navy during WWII and was on the USS Alabama at the time of the Japanese surrender. He served in Korea and stayed in the Naval Reserve until his retirement with the rank of captain in 1978. Past president of the Santa Barbara Navy League, Bob also served on its presidential advisory board. In 2010, the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum honored Bob with its Greatest Generation Award.
Bob Kallman not only continued in the family business — Kallman Nursery, which was a landmark at Las Positas and Cliff Drive — but also followed Bert Kallman’s footsteps in community affairs. At a time when the Mesa was primarily farmland, Bob joined La Mesa Improvement Council and, as president, took responsibility for the Mesa’s road-widening and general improvement.
Bob met his wife, Ruth, when they were youngsters attending Roosevelt School. After marrying, in 1948, they raised a family of four children: Santa Barbara attorney Kris Kallman has served as Old Spanish Days Fiesta El Presidente, and Carol Kallman is current Channel City Club president. (Daughter Tina lives out of state, and another son, Cliffy, passed away in 2000). A devoted family man, Bob kept his family and friends close, and always made time for them.
Bob’s forthright, sensible, and intelligent approach to organization and accomplishment found him rising to leadership positions with the Jaycees, Rotary, Santa Barbara Council for Retarded Children, Tri-County Nurseryman’s Association, the Santa Barbara Zoo, Reserve Officers’ Association, Milpas Merchants, El Pescadores, Old Spanish Days Fiesta, and Santa Barbara Taxpayer’s Association. Bob and Ruth were founding members of Los Fiesteros dance club, another interest he made room for.
Kallman served the State of California’s 19th District Agriculture Association for six years as a director of Earl Warren Showgrounds.
Working in support of children, Kallman was a member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Education for six years. When his third child was born developmentally disabled, Bob and Ruth helped to found Alpha School for the Developmentally Disabled as a resource for other parents of special needs children. Ruth and Bob served devotedly on the board for Alpha School and were instrumental in the acquisition of the site and building of Alpha Resource Center on Cathedral Oaks Road. He was a cofounder and supporter of the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Clubs in Santa Barbara County. Several years ago, Bob, Ruth, and family made possible a new play environment at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Filled with inventive play structures for children (giant “spider web,” caterpillar race track, etc.) this area was named by the Zoo, in honor of the philanthropists, the Kallman Family Play Area.
An enthusiastic horseman, Bob was a member of the Rancheros Visitadores, Santa Barbara Trail Riders, and County Riding and Hiking Trails Advisory Committee, and he worked to preserve the Jesusita and Arroyo Burro Trails.
Bob was serving his third term on the County Board of Supervisors when he was tapped by President Reagan to serve as a special assistant in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Bob was offshore program advisor for Minerals Management Service through the Bush and Clinton administrations. He was executive director of President George H.W. Bush’s Outer Continental Shelf Leasing and Development Task Force. Continuing his work on environmental issues, Bob was involved in the campaign for the San Francisco-based Restore Hetch Hetchy.
Bob’s steadfast commitment to public service has made a huge difference in our community and beyond. The Alumni Association of Santa Barbara High School recognized Bob Kallman with their Distinguished Alumni Award. He was named Santa Barbara’s Man of the Year in 1995, and was also honored with the Santa Barbara News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award.
A thoughtful and well-read man, Bob wrote three books (coauthored with Eugene Wheeler): Coastal Crude in a Sea of Conflict; Shipwrecks, Smugglers, and Maritime Mysteries of the Santa Barbara Channel; and Stop Justice Abuse.
His son-in-law Don Barthelmess probably summed it up best. “Bob has always been a leader in the community, nation, and in his family. The really cool thing about him … is that he does this so quietly and effectively.”