Robert Gilkison

Baker City, 1929-2020

Robert Tally “Bob” Gilkison, 90, died quietly on the morning of Sept. 4, 2020. At the time of his death, he lived at Settler’s Park Retirement Community in Baker City. Robert suffered from dementia.

His graveside service will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m. at the Haines Cemetery.

Robert was born on Oct. 20, 1929, at Redwood City, California, to Robert Earl and Velma Tally Gilkison. He joined his brother, Elwood, and sister, Veetra. In 1929 the times were tough, and the family lived in several cities while Robert’s dad worked for the Pacific Fruit Express. They ended up at Visitacion Valley, California. Robert’s dad found a fruit ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and during the summer, the family would move there and harvest fruit and package it and sell it to the stores in Visitacion Valley. When Robert started high school, the war had broken out, and things were not going well. He lost interest in school, and to keep him out of trouble his folks let him move back to North Powder where he lived with his Uncle Gene and Aunt Zella. Robert went to North Powder High School and played football, basketball and baseball. In the summers, he worked hard on his uncle’s farm, bucking hay and taking care of animals.

His dad got transferred from California to the Ice Plant in Sparks, Nevada. Robert moved back home and worked at the ice plant, but because his dad was the manager, they would not allow him to work. He got a job with the Southern Pacific Railroad servicing the rail cars going east. His dad then got transferred to Bakersfield, California, and Robert went with him.

In 1951, Robert got his letter telling him to report to the army base in San Francisco for a physical. He entered the Army on March 1, 1951. After boot camp, he had two weeks’ leave and then was loaded on a ship called the Breakingridge and set out for Guam for an 8-hour layover and then on to Japan. Robert said they were there long enough to sight in their guns, and then they were shipped off to Korea. He served for 1 year and 8 months with the 25th infantry division (Tropic Lightning). He was discharged in October 1952.

After his discharge, he went to work for Bethlehem Steel for 2 years and then worked for Standard Oil in their service stations, which he did for 17 years. While working for Standard Oil, Robert worked in several stations where he was made a manager and ended up at the Fisherman’s Wharf station. He would take his vacations to Haines, where he met the sister of two of his friends, Larry and Rod Toney. Claudia Toney and Robert were married on April 10, 1955.

Robert took Claudia back to Visitacion Valley while he worked for Standard Oil. Soon Visitacion Valley became a hot spot with rioters in the early 1970s so Robert and Claudia moved back to Haines. After returning to Haines, Robert owned the service station on First and Broadway Streets in Baker City. When supplies of gasoline moved out of Oregon, Robert tried to get Standard Oil to supply the gas, and when he could not get them to supply it, he decided that wasn’t what he wanted to do. Robert went to work for the City of Baker. He decided to retire after having both of his knees replaced.

Robert contributed to many organizations in Baker County. He was a volunteer and caretaker at the Eastern Oregon Museum in Haines, where he did many jobs, including building displays, partitions, working inside and outside of the building, and repairing many of the museum’s farm equipment displays. He was a member of the Elks and a member of the Haines Fire Protection District when Rod Toney was the fire chief.

In 2012, Robert was given the honor of being the Grand Marshal of the Haines Fourth of July parade. He was very proud of his achievement, and his family was there to cheer him on. Robert was an avid golfer and a member of the Baker City Golf Course and a hunter, fisherman, and woodworker. He loved doing all these things when he had time.

Robert and Claudia never had children of their own, but they were substitute parents to their many nieces and nephews for several generations.

Robert is survived by his sisters-in-law, Marge Toney and Colleen Toney; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Robert was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, Elwood and Delbert; and his sister, Veetra. His wife, Claudia, passed in November of 2009.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Eastern Oregon Museum in Haines through Coles Tribute Center, 1950 Place St., Baker City, OR 97814. To leave an online condolence for Robert’s family, go to

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