Bob “The Plumber” Burns #1497, retired Seattle Police Detective Sergeant passed away on September 24, 2017 at the age of 87.
Bob was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1929, just as the Great Depression was hitting. Jobs in the Motor City were being cut back, so the family moved to Seattle in 1934 so his father could find employment in the fishing industry. Bob attended Greenwood Elementary and later, Ballard High where he ran track. He graduated at the end of WWII. He used his dad’s contacts to land a job in Alaska, fishing. He lived in the Salvation Army’s Mission for several days until the salmon fishing boat put out to sea. One day, while whirling the net in with the salmon, a mother seal and her pup got caught. The mother drowned, but the pup survived. The boat’s skipper told Bob to throw the pup back. Bob argued, saying the pup would not survive. The skipper reluctantly relented, but told Bob the seal was his responsibility, no one else’s. Bob had a way with animals, so he bottle-fed and cared for the pup the entire season. He helped the skipper bring the boat – with the seal – back to Seattle. There, he donated the growing seal to the Woodland Park Zoo.
The next year, he signed up with the Merchant Marine to see the world for the next three years. Then Uncle Sam called. He was drafted and assigned to an artillery unit in the 1st Cavalry Division and sent to the Korean War Zone for two years. When his Division was relieved by a National Guard Division, he was demobilized from his two-year tour. He returned to Seattle in 1953 and applied to the Seattle Police Department.
Bob was hired in January of 1954. He also joined the Army Reserves in 1957 to have a reliable supplement to his PD wages, because he was planning to marry his future wife, Helen. He also taught himself plumbing. He was so good that he plumbed the water from his heated swimming pool into his house under the hard wood floors, so they would be warm in the winter. Many fellow employees hired him when they saw his work. During his 15 years as a patrolman, he moonlighted a lot, including a steady flagging job at the new Seafirst Building (the box the Space Needle came in) at 3rd and Madison with Dean Quall #2609. In those days, there was not any overtime pay. You had to work off-duty for extra money.
One shift in the 1950’s, Bob was assigned to the Greenwood Parade. The Ringling Brothers Circus was in town. The circus had a couple of elephants in the parade for advertisement. One of them got bored and went on a little jaunt and broke into an appliance store. As mentioned earlier, Bob had a way with animals. He followed the wayward elephant into the store, calmed it down, and led it back to the parade to finish the route.
Bob was promoted to sergeant on his 15th anniversary. Two years later, he was assigned to the Detectives, in charge of the South Burglary/Theft Squad located on the west side of the 5th floor of the PSB. During the summer, the 5th floor’s temperature would occasionally rise to the high 90s. Finally, window air conditioning units were brought in; however, they were earmarked for the brass’s offices, not the detectives’ work areas. So, Bob had his entire squad report for duty at his home with the pool until the heat wave passed. He was known for taking care of his crew.
When Detective Bob Short #1799 retired, the 5th floor put on his retirement party. He was from Montana, naturally his fellow detectives wanted to present him with a sheep, to help prepare him to return to God’s Country. Bob and Joe Sanford #1896 could not locate a lamb, but did find a goat. The secretaries put eyelashes on the goat and put fingernail polish on its hooves to get it ready for the party, then hid it in the captain’s office until party time. The goat ate Mike Slessman’s #1672 rubber plant and defecated all over his office’s floor. Bob had to clean up the captain’s office.
After the party, the goat was raffled off, but the winner did not want it. It was too friendly to slaughter. So, Joe Sanford volunteered to give it a home on his gentleman’s farm in Kingston. He took it home and it promptly ate his wife’s newly planted prized flower garden. The joke backfired on both Bob and Joe.
Bob retired in 1982, with over 28 years of police service. Seven years later, he retired from the Army CID at the rank of Master Sergeant.
Helen, Bob’s wife of 34 years, preceded him in death in 1994. He is survived by his son, Brian. Bob continued to live in the family home until the end