Avid conservationist and South Yuba River Park advocate “Glenn” Robert Fuller, 67, died Tuesday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
Fuller moved to Nevada County in 2007, after retiring from a 31-year career with the National Park Service. He served on the South Yuba River Park Association board, advocating to keep the park open during the state park budget crisis, raising money toward the visitor services for the park, managing special events at the park and working on the rehabilitation of the iconic Bridgeport covered bridge.
“He was such a generous, compassionate guy,” said Holly Bundock, who worked with Fuller at the park service and who described him as one of her oldest friends.
“He just had that Pied Piper spirit,” she added, explaining that Fuller and his wife, Bev, moved to Nevada County first and inspired many of his friends to relocate here as well. “I am sure he’s on some great adventure we will follow him on.”
Fuller was born in Van Nuys, Calif., and was raised outside San Diego, where his father had a chicken ranch.
Fuller was a medic with the U.S. Army, stationed near Frankfurt, Germany, in 1967. He graduated from Sacramento State University in 1971 with a degree in business administration.
He worked for the U.S. Corps of Engineers as a patrol ranger during the 1970s construction of the New Melones Dam, monitoring archeological activities and surviving a bout of Valley Fever.
It was while working on the Stanislaus with the Corps that he first rafted, ultimately becoming one of the finest raftsman around, Bundock said. For 40 years, he captained the oars of 14-foot rafts through most of the raftable rivers and nearly all of the “10 Big Drops” in the west without accident.
“He was music on water,” Bundock said. “He could read a river better than anybody I ever knew. If you were boating with him, it was a wonderful adventure and a very safe trip.”
Fuller served as a park ranger at Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Parks, and Cape Cod National Seashore in the 1970s and early 1980s, patrolling some of America’s great landscapes, rescuing stranded hikers and bracing up their sprained ankles and scrapes, according to Burdock. He risked a few scrapes too, celebrating them with a 1979 photo in his office of a helicopter crash with him standing on its strut in Grand Canyon en route to a rescue.
Fuller was proud to wear the grey and green uniform of the National Park Service, last serving as Superintendent of John Muir National Historic Site, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, and Port Chicago National Memorial — all in the East Bay.
While superintendent at the Eugene O’Neill site, he encouraged a renewed interest in and stage productions of his works. It is due to Fuller’s efforts at Port Chicago, a park dedicated to civil rights in World War II, that an annual commemoration continues for the deaths of African American and white military service members from the largest mainland World War II explosion.
Muir was Fuller’s idol, said those who knew him best.
His passion for Muir’s work began when he was a site manager at Muir Woods National Monument, also a National Park site, in Sausalito, leading to his management of Muir’s home, regarded as ground zero for the conservation movement in this nation.
“He knew of John Muir, of course,” said longtime friend Mack Shaver. “But I think he fell in love with him when he went to work at the house and got to know a lot about him … (particularly) the fact that Muir, foremost, proposed the idea of the park service. He actually got Yosemite established, and pushed to create an organization to manage it.”
Fuller and his wife, Bev, managed an orchard at their Nevada City home patterned off those of the Muir home in Martinez, sharing its abundant fruit with friends and board members, Bundock said, adding that Muir books hold pride of place in the Fullers’ home.
Fuller was “very, very active” on the South Yuba River Park Association board, said board president David Anderson.
“He headed up most of our publicity,” Anderson said. “He was a great idea man. If he came up with a good idea, he was not the type to just sit back — he would be right in the middle of it, making it happen. He was a doer.”
Fuller was instrumental in the efforts of the association to keep the park open, when the state decreed in 2011 that it would close as part of an effort in the state budget to save $22 million. More recently, he was working on fundraising to repair the covered bridge, which was closed due to safety concerns.
“He knew a great deal about how parks are managed, and he was able, with his knowledge, to keep the pressure up to prevent the closure of these parks,” Shaver said. “He had many, many meetings with local parks staff, strategizing to make sure they didn’t close.”
Fuller also used his decades of experience in the national park service during his volunteer work as a docent in Nevada County, Anderson said.
“As a park ranger, he was very focused on the public,” he said. “He wanted to make sure the public knew what they were looking at, and that they enjoyed the experience … he loved the parks, all the parks — national and state. He was constantly visiting each and every one of them.
“He was just that get-out-in-nature type person, and it showed,” Anderson continued. “He was willing to enjoy (the parks), but he was also willing to work for them.”
Besides his wife, Fuller is survived by brother, Don, and sister-in-law Nancy, cousins, and many friends throughout the conservation world. A private memorial service is planned.
Donations in memory of Fuller for the “Save Our Bridge” fund can be sent to the South Yuba River State Park Association, Box 1658, Penn Valley, CA 95946.
Condolences for his family also may be sent to the association with the envelope marked “Attn: Director Fuller.”
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
“He just had that Pied Piper spirit. I am sure he’s on some great adventure we will follow him on.” Holly Bundock
on “Glenn” Robert Fuller