Robert Norman Bee, 92, died peacefully in San Francisco on Monday, August 7, 2017 with his family at his side.
Bob and his twin sister, Janet, were born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bob was a record-setting swimmer on his high school championship team. As a member of his high school band, Bob learned to play the cornet, a skill he would hone in later years by waking his children on Saturday mornings to revelry. Immediately following graduation in 1943, Bob enlisted in the war as an Army infantryman, an experience he always described as beneficial and formative because it gave him an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. This appreciation for human diversity guided him through the years.
Bob survived the war and the Battle of the Bulge, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. Bob graduated from Marquette University with honors in 1949, and from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, also with honors, in 1955. Following Georgetown, Bob joined the Foreign Service of the US Treasury. Bob met the love of his life, Dolores Cappelletti, on board the Ile de France on his first overseas assignment to Sweden. Bob courted Dolores by playing chess by mail. Move by move, letter by letter, they fell in love. Bob and Dolores were married on April 23, 1955 in New York City.
Bob’s work in international finance included posts in Ankara, Turkey, Bonn, Germany, and Karachi, Pakistan, where he was Acting Director of the US A.I.D. mission. In 1967, Bob left the government to return to Milwaukee, where he was the First Vice President of First Wisconsin National Bank. He was also Chairman of the World Affairs Council.
The Bees moved to San Francisco in 1971, where Bob was Senior Vice President in charge of Wells Fargo’s International Division. In 1978, the Bees moved to London, England, where Bob had been hired as the Chairman of London Interstate Bank. Bob’s extracurricular activities in London included being Chairman of the Adam Smith Institute, advisors to members of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet. He was also President of the American Society in London. Bob was awarded the John Carroll Award by the Georgetown University Alumni Association in 1993 for his distinguished career. Bob and Dolores retired to San Francisco in 1994.
Bob’s love of learning and curiosity about the world were hallmarks of his life. He enjoyed writing, and published articles on history and economics. Bob was a regular student at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco until the end of his life.
Family and friends alike would affirm that Bob had great enthusiasm and saw the best in every situation. Bob was unfailingly cheerful, and always up for an adventure. A devoted grandfather, he sought to spend time with his five grandchildren, and was engaged, curious, and playful in his interactions with them. At 75, on a dare, Bob jumped off the roof of his son John’s house, to join his grandchildren in the pool. A lifelong athlete, Bob jogged before it was popular, and swam and played tennis well into his 80s.
“I am the luckiest man in the world.” Bob was profoundly grateful for all the blessings life bestowed on him: good health, a wonderful marriage, remarkable educational and professional opportunities, and the ability to see the world. With his great sense of humor, fearless (and creative) use of language, no joke was too corny to share whether in English, French, German, or Italian.
Bob is survived by his beloved wife, Dolores, his three children, Diane Gooding (Vaughn), John Bee, and Leslie Bee (Richard Beckman), and five grandchildren: William (Brooke), Robert, and Andrew Rennie, and Milena and Kayla Beckman. Bob Bee died one day before he could meet his great-grandson, Hayden Rennie.
The Bee family thanks Chito Aguas and Michelle Lacson for their extraordinary care of Bob in the last years of his life. The family has planned a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the California Pacific Medical Center.