Hereford America


The Largest Privately Owned Hereford Newspaper in North America

Robert Harrell

Robert Harrell

April 30, 1938 – November 12, 2023

Robert L. (Bob) Harrell passed away peacefully November 12, 2023 of natural causes, following several years of overcoming the effects of strokes in his later years.

Born in Grants Pass, Ore. the son of Lyle Harry Harrell, an Oregon State Police officer and his mother, Frances Marie Harrell. At the age of 10 Bob, sister Barbara Mae and family moved to Baker City, Oregon where he graduated from Baker High School with many lifelong friends and fond memories.

After graduating from Baker High School, Bob attended Stanford University on a football scholarship. He married his his high school & college sweetheart, Edna Rogers in 1959, then after graduating in 1960, he realized his dream of joining the Air Force, undergoing training at Travis Air Force Base. He graduated first in his class at Williams AFB, then the leading pilot training program in the U.S.  His favorite movies were always the “Top Gun” series.

Bob’s Air Force career included Vietnam War missions and flying for the 354th and 356th “Green Demons” Tactical Fighter Squadrons, based at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He flew the fastest jets of the time, including the T-33 and T-38 trainers, the F-101, F-104, the F-100 Super Sabre, and the F4 Phantom. He was posted all over the world, including Aviano, Italy and Incirlik, Turkey.

Honorably discharged in 1965, Bob continued to fly for the Nevada Air National Guard and beyond, including classified missions. He earned many commendations, including the Silver Star citation for valor.

In 1966, Bob began flying for Pan Am, the premier commercial airline at the time. He flew the Boeing 707 as first officer, graduated to the 747 for years flying the Pacific routes, but the highlight of his career was flying 727’s as a captain out of Berlin, Germany when it was divided by the Berlin Wall and partly under Soviet control. He flew all over Europe, thrilled with the short trips that allowed more takeoffs and landings. When the wall finally came down in 1989, Bob retrieved pieces of it for family members and friends.

In 1968, Bob had a vision and in 1970, Bob and his wife Edna founded Harrell Hereford Ranch outside Baker City with the purchase of 100 cows from TT Herefords. The ranch grew in size and scope by adding additional ranches and purchasing an additional 50 cows from the Stone Dispersion.  The ranch exhibited numerous champions from Cow Palace to Filer, ID to the National Western Stockshow in Denver Colorado, where they had the 1984 Reserve National Champion with L1 Challenger.  Today the ranch consists of over 15,000 acres and consists of Hereford, Angus, Commercial Cows and Quarter Horses. It was always a family affair, which included their three kids—Beth, Bob Jr. and Linda—helping with ranch duties, starting and training horses, AI and embryo transfer with the cowherd, and farming operations.  This year will be the 45th annual Production Sale held each spring at the ranch facilities. Now run by Edna and Bob Jr. & family, was an enormous source of pride for Bob Sr., the ranch has become one of the most respected purebred Hereford operations in the country, being listed as one of the top 10 Sale Averages for sales selling over 100 bulls.

After the 1988 bombing of Pan Am’s flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which led to the ultimate collapse of the airline, and no longer able to fly for his beloved Pan Am, Bob, like so many of his fellow pilots, sought other cockpits. He joined Korean Airlines as a captain, and later United Airlines. He flew for United until it, too, suffered the impacts of the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Bob remarried in 1988 and he and wife Deb had two children, Doug and Kelsey, and made their home in Bellevue, WA. Bob continued to find a way to stay connected to the airlines. He became a flight instructor with United (737’s) based in Denver, and later a pilot training consultant for Boeing Commercial Airlines.

After retiring from United Airlines at the age of 65, Bob suffered a stroke in 2009 and another two followed.  But the man who had built a ranch and remodeled the family home went on to earn certifications as a property manager, managing a large condo complex on the Eastside.

Yet his love of planes remained. Bob started volunteering at the Seattle Museum of Flight in December 2012. He graduated from the March 2013 docent class, and became a volunteer docent until two days before he died. He had 2,357 volunteer hours and received the museum’s 2,000-hour “Barnstormer Award” in 2021.

Bob was a man of many interests in his life, including hunting, hiking, sailing, skiing, rafting, photography, as well as flying and ranching, attending numerous cattle sales and shows.  He was also active in his community and believed in giving back.  He served on the Baker School Board, local Rotary Club, was a Boy Scout leader, and belonged to the Order of the Elks. Bob was instrumental in the formation of the Anthony Lakes Ski Resort and served on the board at the time of the first chair lift and new lodge which is still in use today. He also helped rescue a derelict narrow gauge steam engine from Skagway, Alaska, spearheading an effort to restore it as the “Steam Engine” for the Sumpter Valley Railroad in Baker County. He was very active in his church and enjoyed singing in the choir for the First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, helped restore cars with the nonprofit Auto Angels and worked with men experiencing homelessness.

­Through it all, Bob was a loving father who earned the respect of all his kids and both wives. He adored his blended family and will be remembered above all for his spirit and determination. Despite suffering many losses, he retained a positive attitude, a big heart and an unshakeable faith in God.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Debera Carlton Harrell; first wife Edna Rogers Harrell; sons Robert Harrell Jr. (Becky) and Douglas Harrell (Kiersten); daughters Beth Mackenzie (Wannie); Linda Anderson (Walt); Kelsey Harrell and five grandchildren: Duncan Mackenzie; Lexie Harrell; Maggie Mackenzie and twins Matt and Marti Anderson.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that remembrances be made to the Museum of Flight, or Porchlight (formerly Congregations for the Homeless),