ST. ALBANS – Robert “Bob” Bouchard died peacefully on August 5, surrounded by his loving family and dedicated caregivers. A teacher and trumpeter, superintendent and super-grandfather, band director and baker, Bob’s 96 years were made rich by his big-hearted commitment to community, family, and most especially, children.
Born in St. Albans, Bob was a family man from the start. The oldest of three, he spent his summers working on his grandparents’ dairy farm, his winters playing with his siblings and friends in the snow on makeshift skis and sleds, and evenings driving the milk and cream delivery route. In March of his senior year in high school, he enlisted in the Navy and thus began his proud service as part of the Greatest Generation, stationed in San Diego and Pearl Harbor.
As the war came to a close, Bob received an honorable discharge from the Navy and pursued his passion for music at the Boston Conservatory. There he met and married pianist Ann Morrison of Bennington. Their life together was set to the score of Big Band music, Broadway musicals, and the Boston Pops. Together, they raised four children and a generation of budding musicians. Bob worked as a junior high and high school band instructor in New Hampshire, New York, and finally California.
In 1963, the two teachers made Hollister their home, and Bob quickly became San Benito’s Music Man. In his 20 years as an educator in the county, Bob taught music at 17 rural schools, served as the County Supervisor of Music, directed Head Start, the migrant education program, bilingual education, and the county’s alternative schools. The crescendo of his career came with his election as Superintendent of Schools for San Benito County. As Superintendent, he established and built five new elementary schools. Respected by colleagues as a dedicated and humble leader, Bob was a fierce advocate for children, for access to high-quality education, and of course, an education infused with the arts.
In retirement, he traded the quick tempo of school district life for a new rhythm. As founder and director of the 14-piece Bob Bouchard Big Band, he played throughout the Monterey Peninsula and Bay Area. He continued to hold the baton as organizer of the San Benito County Music Festival, which he directed for over 40 years, and in which over 600 students participated each year. As a member of the VFW, he played Taps at countless veterans’ funerals, and was a treasured trumpeter for the Watsonville Community Band and Pacific Brass Band, all until the age of 93. He was a founding member of both the San Benito County SIRS and YMCA, as well a longtime member of the Hollister Elks Lodge. A kind and generous man, Bob’s dedication to the community he loved for 56 years was no secret; he was elected as a Trustee for Gavilan Community College in 1992, was given the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts award by the San Benito County Arts Commission in 1999, and was honored as Philanthropist of the Year by the YMCA in 2007.
Bob’s legacy lives on in his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He is survived by his four children, Cathy (Steve) Combs, David (Cathy) Bouchard, Ellen (Curtis) Hill, and Peggy (Pat) Martell; his grandchildren, Brian (Danielle) Combs, Diana (Steven) Neebe, Kevin Hill, Isabel Bouchard, Molly Martell, and Jack Martell; and his great-grandchildren, Oliver and Sofia Combs, and Charlie and Andy Neebe. He is also survived by his brother, Paul (Irene) Bouchard of St. Albans, Vermont, and by his loving partner of ten years, Molly Becerra of Hollister, as well as many treasured nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife of 59 years, Ann Morrison Bouchard, and by his sister, Barbara Menna, and brother-in-law, Patrick Menna, of New York. A rare combination of good humor, humility, and integrity, Bob’s vital presence will be sorely missed by family, neighbors, and lifelong friends.
Services were held at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Hollister on Friday, August 16. In his honor, donations may be made to Music for Minors, a nonprofit organization which provides music education to over 25,000 children in elementary schools throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties: www.mfm.org or 650-237-9130.