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Robert 'Bob' Abramson

Robert “Bob” Abramson

Published: Monday, January 7, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 7, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.

Robert “Bob” Abramson of Cotati, a World War II bomber pilot who went on to work around the globe with the United Nations and later the World Bank, died Dec. 31 of heart complications. He was 89.

Born Dec. 22, 1923, in San Francisco to Selma and John Abramson, Abramson was one of six children. After graduating from Commerce High School in San Francisco, Abramson worked in the shipyards for a few years before volunteering for the Army Air Corps in 1943.

He was trained as a B-29 bomber pilot and flew nearly 30 missions in the Pacific, said his son, Bruce Abramson of Healdsburg.

Abramson was decommissioned in August 1945 after Japan surrendered. He went to San Francisco where Barbara Linnerson flew out from Wichita, Kan., to meet him. The pair had met at a USO dance in 1944 and were married three days after Linnerson arrived in San Francisco.

Abramson enrolled at UC Berkeley where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in philosophy and social welfare.

Abramson worked as a parole officer in Oakland, then in management training in Sacramento, before taking a job at the University of Southern California through which he was stationed in Pakistan in a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

He lived and worked in Pakistan, training government employees in efficiency and leadership strategies, from 1962 to 1968.

During his stint, his family had to be evacuated to Tehran, Iran, during the Pakistan-Indian War in 1965.

“The C-130s would keep their engines running. One hundred people had to board the plane in 10 minutes because there was worry that the plane could be hit if it stayed longer,” Bruce Abramson said.

From 1973 to 1983, Abramson took U.N. management consultant posts in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.

“In Kenya, they went on safaris through the jungle,” Bruce Abramson said of his parents. “They'd take a Land Rover and go camping out in the wild in the bush and they would set up a tent. They would hear the lions roar at night.”

“He thrived,” he said. “It was very stimulating.”

Abramson then signed on with the World Bank and from 1983 to 1988 worked in Kingston, Jamaica, training government personnel.

When Abramson turned 65, he and his wife retired to Cotati, attracted to the area by college friends and the proximity to a university. But Abramson still took temporary consulting jobs in such places as the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

“He held his own,” Barbara Abramson said. “He was a very determined person, a very giving person as well.”

Despite his colorful resume, Abramson was approachable, his son said.

“He engaged people and found soft spots,” he said. “My friends liked him because he was very open and wasn't judgmental.”

“You could talk and not get into some kind of dead end where you would hurt each other's feelings,” he said.

He was active in the World War II Pilots Association, Prostate Cancer Support Group and Democratic Clubs of Petaluma and Santa Rosa.

He also was a 15-year officer with the United Nations Association of Sonoma County, acting as president of the group for years as well as membership chairman for eight years.

In addition to his wife and son, Abramson is survived by his daughter, Julie Morrison of Las Vegas; his brother, Albert Abramson of Hillsborough; his sister, Carol Jessen of San Diego; and four grandchildren.

A private gathering of family and friends will be held later.

—Kerry Benefield

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