Robert Soper was born October 3, 1940 in San Francisco and he died September 20, 2019 at his Napa home with his family by his side. He became known as “Bob” from a young age. Bob attended St. Monica’s grammar school and St. Ignatius High School, where he participated in football, track and cross-country.
He went on to attend UC Berkeley as a pre-forestry major and member of Chi Phi fraternity. He ultimately followed his heart and changed his major to physical education, transferring to City College of San Francisco where he played basketball and he received his A.A. degree. He then transferred to San Francisco State College, where he played Soccer as the Varsity goalie while he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, his general secondary teaching credential and his Master’s degree in PE. He went on to earn his Administrative credential at UC Berkeley. While in college and early in his career, Bob spent six years in the U.S. Army Reserves, finishing as a Staff Sergeant.
While growing up in San Francisco, Bob was very active in Scouting, a Vigil member of the Order of the Arrow and Lodge Chief for the Royaneh Lodge of the San Francisco Council. While at S.F. State, he was a scoutmaster for three years in Daly City. For 16 summers he worked for the Boy Scouts on the staff at Camp Royaneh in Cazadero, CA, mostly as the waterfront director, where he ultimately met his wife of 54 years, Sandra “Kay” Soper, who was the step daughter of the Camp’s ranger. He later became a Cub Master in Napa and a founder and camp director for 10 summers for the San Francisco Bay Area Council’s Webelos sports camp at Camp Los Mochos.
Bob and Kay moved to Napa in the Fall of 1965 after he was hired at Redwood Junior High to help introduce soccer to the Napa Valley Unified School District shortly after the tenth graders and the football programs were moved to Napa High School. Besides soccer, he also coached boys and girls basketball at Redwood and also served as intramural supervisor and athletic director. In 1984, Bob became the JV girls basketball coach at Vintage for 15 years and also coached badminton for 2 years. As JV coach, his teams won eight MEL titles. In 1985, he co-founded the Wine Valley Classic JV Girls Basketball Tournament Invitational that Vintage High continues to host each December. In 2017, Vintage renamed the tournament the Bob Soper Wine Valley Classic JV Girls Tournament.
After 34 years of teaching P.E. at Redwood, Bob, who was often simply called “Coach,” became an assistant principal for his last four years before retiring in 2002. He came out of retirement a year later to help open Harvest Middle School as an assistant principal. For many years, even after retirement, he helped organize the Redwood/Harvest Science Club yearly trip to Catalina Island.
After his second retirement, Bob often substituted for middle school administrators. For decades, his fellow teachers, administrators and students were treated to a seemingly never-ending stream of corny jokes to spread humor and laughter. At Redwood and Harvest middle schools, he could often be found with his sidekick “Getta Clue” sharing Friday morning riddles and jokes to bring smiles to faces.
Beyond his teaching career, Bob was synonymous with Napa sports and leaves a lasting legacy. Starting in the late 1960s, Bob was the president of the Men’s City Basketball League for many years. He also co-founded and became President of the Napa Men’s City Slow Pitch Softball League for 13 years at the same time he co-founded and served as President of the North Bay Soccer Football League.
In 1984, Bob was honored as the California Park and Recreation Society’s District One award winner for outstanding service to community recreation. He was a Rotary “Teacher of the Year” and was named the 1991 Optimist Club’s “Coach of the Year” after he led Vintage JV to their fourth consecutive MEL title. In 2016, he was inducted into the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was long recognized for outdoorsmanship and wildlife conservation. He was appointed by the Napa County Board of Supervisors to the Napa County Wildlife Conservation Committee, serving for over 30 years, eight as chairman. He was an avid duck hunter, enjoying time in the duck blind with his son and grandson. He was also a long-time member of Ducks Unlimited and The California Waterfowl Association.
Bob married his wife Kay in 1965 shortly before they settled in Napa to begin their teaching careers. Bob is survived by Kay, his daughter Dawn Soper Lyon (Brad Sauber) from Mill Valley, CA and Seattle, son Matthew Soper (Suzanne) from Lincoln, CA and two grandchildren, Justin and Juliana Soper. He is also survived by two sisters: Donna Ward (David) from Santa Rosa and Yvette DeMartini (Vern) from Petaluma, a half-brother David Williams and a half-sister Kitty Williams, both from Mars, PA and numerous nieces and nephews. Bob loved to spend time with his family and he and Kay loved to travel.
Bob was proud of the fact that he had visited 47 states and several continents. As he reflected on his travels, he advised everyone to make sure to check something off your “bucket list” each time you add something new, while you still can. Some of the ones he was grateful to have checked off was going to Pamplona for the “running of the bulls” and to Tanzania for a 19-day safari during the “great migration.” As a history buff, he was also glad to have visited Normandy, exploring the D-Day beaches; and also traversing Civil War battlefields from Gettysburg to the Appomattox Court House. One of his most favorite destinations was the annual Soper family trip to Catalina Island, a place he began visiting as a small boy that he ultimately shared with his kids, grand kids and countless friends and family.
A memorial service will be held in Napa on October 5, 2019 at 11 a.m. at The First Presbyterian Church, 1333 Third Street, Napa. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests tax-deductible donations be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or the newly formed Bob Soper Memorial Scholarship Fund at Vintage High (checks may be mailed to: Bob Soper Memorial Scholarship Fund, Vintage High, 1375 Trower Ave., Napa, California 94558.) This annual scholarship will support the higher education of a female basketball player.
Safe travels in your next chapter, Coach. Soar. # # #