Fortuna's Top Citizen

The Humboldt Beacon

Bob Somerville was honored as Citizen of the Year at the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner Monday night at River Lodge.

Somerville, who retired in March as fire chief of the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department, was chosen for the honor for his many years of service to the community, including 37 years as a volunteer fireman.

"That's 37 years of getting out of bed, getting up from the dinner table, leaving his family, answering fire calls in the middle of the night," said Rick Center, who served as master of ceremonies at the dinner.

Somerville has also been a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars for 40 years and the Fortuna Rodeo Board for 37 years.

"He does things for a long time," Center said. "Everything he does is for a long time."

For all that, he has not gone very far, Center quipped. "I've never presented an award to someone who got less far in life," Center joked. "He was born in Rohnerville and now he lives next door to the house he was born in."

Somerville attended a one-room schoolhouse on School Street in Rohnerville, graduating from the eighth grade there. He graduated in 1950 from Fortuna High School, where he played football.


USS Hector
USS Hector

He spent four years in the Navy during the Korean conflict, serving as a machine repairman aboard the USS Hector. He married Val in 1955 and they have two daughters, Sharon Somerville of Fortuna and Brenda Hiscox and her husband Jim, of Eureka.

In addition to his countless hours of volunteer work in the community, Somerville worked for 44 years in the parts department of Hughes/Patton/Timberland Chevrolet in Fortuna. He joined the volunteer fire department in 1961 with Company 1, and transferred to the new station in Campton Heights in 1967 where he was the first captain of Company 5. He became the department chief in 1982 and retired in 1998.

The Fortuna Chamber presented Somerville with a plaque, and he also received certificates of recognition from U.S. Congressman Frank Riggs and State Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin.


Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department