Photo by Margaret Webb
fund in Bob's memory has been established to restore the Charles Robert
Patterson mural, “W.R.
Grace Leaving the Coast of California in the Eighties” at Mystic
Seaport Museum. Donations can be made to Mystic Seaport Museum, 75 Greenmanville
Ave, Mystic, CT 06355. marked for the Bob Webb memorial fund.
Robert Lloyd Webb died peacefully at home on December 25, 2013 from
complications of hereditary hemochromatosis. Born in Santa Monica, California in
1947 to Effie Margaret Young and James Milton Webb, Bob grew up in Culver City,
California. He attended Culver City schools and the University of Oregon, and
graduated from California State University at Northridge, with a degree in
Bob had a life-long love of history and research and was fascinated by a wide
variety of topics, from the geology of California to automobiles and aircraft,
antique firearms, sailing ships, the history of the Martin guitar and the
writings of Jack Kerouac. Childhood explorations around the Los Angeles
waterfront with his uncle, Ted Brown, gave him glimpses of vanishing times and a
desire to preserve and document those times. Maritime history brought him to the
East Coast, first as librarian and educator at the Kendall Whaling Museum in
Sharon, Massachusetts and later as curator at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.
In addition to public programs and exhibitions, Bob wrote dozens of articles and
three significant books: Sailor-Painter:
The Uncommon Life of Charles Robert Patterson (2005), On the Northwest: Commercial Whaling in the Pacific Northwest 1790-1967
(1988), and Ring the Banjar: The Banjo in
America From Folklore to Factory which was published in 1984 to accompany a
ground-breaking exhibition on the history of the banjo in America at the MIT
Music also framed Bob’s life and adventures, from the hootenannies of his
youth, to the True and Trembling String Band on the West Coast, two tours with
the young Tom Waits, festivals around North America and Europe and happy
afternoons of tunes around the house. A talented player of the clawhammer banjo,
guitar and MacCann duet concertina, he was also a fine singer of songs of the
sea, old-time ballads and songs of the American and Canadian West.
was a talented raconteur, and a lucid and facile writer, comfortable in fiction,
non-fiction and poetry. He could discuss, at the drop of a hat (he liked hats), The
Dharma Bums, the relative tonnage of Maine-built sailing ships, or the
banjo's African antecedents. Whatever his subject, in public or private, he
brought an artist's eye and a scholar's sensibilities to the discussion. Those
who knew him, even briefly, came away with the imprint of a man dedicated to his
work, to collegiality and conviviality, to scholarship and truth, and to
artistic expression, whether in print, on the stage, or in conversation.
A loyal friend and a loving and supportive husband and father, Bob is survived
by his wife Helen Richmond Webb, daughter Margaret Richmond Webb, brother James
F. Webb, of Ojai, California, and many cousins, nieces and nephews.