A memorial luncheon was hosted in honor of the late Robert ‘Preston’ Tucker on Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Riverbank Community Center, where a large number of present and former firefighters, Rotarians, city officials, friends and family gathered to remember his life and years of service to his community. Tucker passed away on Aug. 4. He was 89.
Guests filed through the door, pausing to sign in the guest book and look over photos, certificates, awards and other memorabilia from his long life in Riverbank.
Born in 1925 in Nebraska, Preston came with his family to California, camping along the way, fleeing scarce work of the 1930s to eventually land in Salida. Having found work picking fruit, his family then settled in the west end of Santa Fe Street in Riverbank.
After graduating from Modesto High School in 1943, he joined the Navy, serving with the Commander in Charge of Pacific Forces, Admiral Chester Nimitz. Unfortunately, that same year, his brother Arthur was shot down in a B-17 Bomber over Germany.
Tucker returned to Riverbank after the war, in 1946, and followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Volunteer Fire Department (RVFD) when he turned 21.
The next year, he married Shirley Bick, whom he had met in high school, on Sept. 21, 1947. They would have marked their 68th wedding anniversary in just a few weeks. Together, they had three sons and a daughter between 1948 and 1953. In 1961, they moved into their present home on Topeka Street.
Tucker became very active in the community. He was a member of the Lion’s Club, served on the Riverbank Planning Commission, later becoming a member of the Rotary Club. He was chosen “Man of the Year” (now Citizen of the Year) in 1992.
In 1969, the RVFD hired seven full-time firefighters and Tucker was hired as Assistant Chief, a position he had held as a volunteer. During those years, he attended Modesto Junior College, earning an Associate of Science Degree in Fire Science. When Karl Hutcheson retired as chief, Tucker was hired to fill that position, retiring himself in 1987, prior to the Stanislaus Consolidated takeover of the fire service in Riverbank.
During his retirement, Tucker became very active in the Riverbank Historical Society, serving several times as board president.
At Saturday’s luncheon, family, friends and associates gathered to reminisce about the good times they had with Tucker through the years. Mayor Richard O’Brien, council members Cal Campbell and Darlene Barber-Martinez, were in attendance, as were present and past city employees and a contingent of fire fighters from Stanislaus Consolidated.