Silverdale legend helped town grow

Those who knew Robert “Bob” L. Arper knew he had a heart of gold and love for his community. He helped to build Silverdale from the ground up and now the community that he truly cherished must bid farewell.

The Silverdale legend died on Oct. 8 of pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 85.

“He was a giant in the community and there will never be another one of him, he was an incredible man,” said Hank Mann-Sykes, friend and fellow community member.

Arper helped to establish many organizations in Silverdale including the Silverdale Rotary which he continued to be active in until his death. The charter member opened his waterfront property to the public for the first Whaling Days. He built the ticket stands and dump trailer that was first used for the Great Kitsap Duck Race.

Arper’s son, Richard, remembers the barge that was first used for the Whaling Days events. It was used for both the fireworks and the duck race. Richard remembers his dad would be the only one out there at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning shoveling sand off the barge to get it ready for the duck race.

Arper was born on June 25, 1919 to Edward and Ada (Brown) Arper in Roy, Wash. His family moved to Silverdale in 1937, but he stayed in Tacoma to finish school at Lincoln High School. After high school he went to California to attend diesel engineering school at Santa Monica College. In 1941 he returned to Silverdale and went to work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard as a machinist.

Arper’s sister, Jeanne Worthington, remembers her brother fondly and said he was always very handy. She remembers when she was 13 years old and Arper and their brother made the first automobile the family had. The homemade truck was the “first wheels” she ever drove.

“He was always helpful to his family and especially helpful to the community. He was a very special brother to me, I have good memories,” she said.

In 1942, Arper started Silverdale Fuel & Transfer Company and began selling coal from his parents’ house on Bay Shore Drive. He added stove and furnace oil in 1945 after being discharged from the Navy after one year of service due to a disability.

“He would deliver oil, anytime day or night and even on Christmas. If someone was out of oil he would be there,” Richard said.

He recalls driving with his dad in the snow one time to not only deliver oil, but also wood and groceries that the customer had asked him to pick up.

Gerry Taylor knew Arper since she was 2 years old when her family would buy fuel from him. She says her husband, Don, also was fortunate to have known him while in the Silverdale Rotary.

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