It is with heavy hearts and sorrow that we announce the passing of NPS retiree Robert W. Cheung on the afternoon of February 3rd, one day before his 69th birthday. Known by his family as “Butch”, Bob battled cancer for almost a year, and was in a hospice care center surrounded by his family and close friends when he peacefully slipped away.
Bob contributed 39 years of dedicated service to the National Park Service and its visitors. A city boy from Manhattan, Bob grew up working in his family’s Chinese restaurant. He joined the Air Force and served a tour in Vietnam, where he was a radio communications technician. He began his career with the National Park Service in the COOP program, first as a protection ranger at Joshua Tree National Park and later at Bryce Canyon National Park. Bob lived for many years in San Francisco’s Upper Sunset district with his long-time partner, Irene, who preceded him in death four years ago.
Bob was one of Golden Gate’s original horse patrol rangers, stationed at the Tennessee Valley Ranger Station. He became a supervisory law enforcement ranger in the Marin Headlands District and oversaw the transition of the horse patrol program to a volunteer activity. He would often cite the problem of rookie rangers being thrown by “Jim” or one of the other many horses as the reason for the change.
In the 80’s, Bob required all his law enforcement rangers to develop and present interpretive programs in order to fully understand and appreciate what set NPS law enforcement rangers apart from most other law enforcement agencies -- that of resource protection and education of park visitors. Bob himself gave a quarterly geology interpretative talk along Conzelman road, attended regularly by San Francisco City College students. Bob was an extraordinary supervisor, providing field training and mentoring many law enforcement rangers who moved on to supervisory and management roles themselves.
Bob was a great supporter of the US Park Police, San Francisco Field Office, and worked tirelessly to have rangers and Park Police officers function successfully side by side. There are countless rangers and USPP officers who will never forget his humor and ability to supervise without micro-managing. Bob transcended divisional roles and included employees from all divisions of the park on the Headlands SAR team. He was equally respected and admired by employees throughout the park.
Though retired since 2001, Bob remained a fixture in many Golden Gate employees’ lives. He was a regular user of the USPP Presidio Building 1217 workout facility, to which Major Gretchen Merckle granted him lifetime access as a retirement gift from the Field Office. At Bob’s retirement party guests overwhelmed the nearly 300-person building capacity at the Presidio’s Log Cabin. Members of his family were present along with countless others who had worked for or with Bob in the the park. Many also came from great distances -- Acadia, Assateague Island, Colorado NM, Yellowstone, Lake Mead, and Yosemite -- each there to honor and show gratitude for all that he gave to them and the NPS. For the past decade, Bob enjoyed fishing and hiking with other retirees in the park and made a point of attending retirement and promotional gatherings for ranger and USPP staff.
He will be remembered as an incredible mentor to new law enforcement employees and office staff, for his salty tongue (which would have put many a sailor to shame), and for his deep belly laughs when he knew he’d successfully “messed” with you.
True to his no-nonsense style, Bob asked that there be no formal memorial services and the burial will be private.
If there are favorite Bob stories or memories you would like to share with his family, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-561-4301.