He was born December 8, 1923 to Clyde and Jean Cook Painter in White Bird, ID, and grew up in Clarkston, WA in his grandparents’ home with his mother, aunt, grandmother and brother, Alan.
After high school he and his brother enlisted in the Coast Guard, where Bob served in search and rescue in Greenland during WWII.
After his discharge he attended WSU, where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.
He went to work for Boeing in 1950 where he was first employed in Test Flight and later at the Developmental Center in Seattle, where he worked on defense projects for many years.
He married Nancy Marie Chivers on August 30, 1952 and had four children: Diana Jean (1953), Kathleen Marie (1957), Andrea Elizabeth (1961), and Brian Alan (1965).
In 1971 he took a settlement from Boeing and bought a farm in George, WA, where he raised hay and cattle.
He bought a ranch north of Spokane in 1981 and raised cattle.
After a brief stint back at Boeing, he retired to Lapwai, ID, where he lived until 2009.
He moved to Spokane that year, where he lived with his partner Ba Thi Le.
Bob enjoyed horse-back riding, working on his mines in Idaho, research and writing (“White Bird: The Last Great Warrior Chief of the Nez Perces,” 2003, and “Breaks of the Salmon,” 1998) and spending time with family.
He is survived by his brother, Alan of Mead, WA; sister, Josephine Patterson of Lewiston, ID; son, Brian of Nine Mile Falls, WA; daughters, Diana of Salem, OR; Kate (Charles Knaack) of Colfax, WA; and Andrea (George Miller) of St. John, WA; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. at Fowler United Methodist Church, 3928 N. Howard St., Spokane, WA 99205.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Spokane Veterans Home, 222 E. 5th Ave., Spokane, WA 99202.