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James Robert (Bob} Austin, a highly regarded Downey community leader and volunteer, passed away on July 15, at Norwalk Community Hospital after a long illness.
Bob Austin dedicated over fifty years of his life as a volunteer for the city of Downey. He was dedicated to the cultural development of our then young, thriving community when his family first came to Downey in 1952. The Austin family moved to California from Quincy, Illinois, when Mr. Austin came to Los Angeles to work for the Baldwin Piano Company, and later, the Paul Revere Life Insurance Company. A classically trained musician with a passion for the arts, Bob Austin joined the Downey Symphonic Society, serving as a board member and president. He was an active member of the Downey Rotary Club, and was its president from 1988 to 1989. The city of Downey recognized him as “Volunteer of the Year” in 1983, and declared the city observe “Bob Austin Day” with a call to public service. In 1993 he received the “Service Beyond Self” award from the Downey Rotary.
Bob Austin was a native of Western Springs, Illinois. A voice student of the famed Reinhold Schmit, he received a full music scholarship to Illinois Wesleyan University, where he met and married fellow voice major, Dorothy Wells. He was a veteran of World War II, stationed in India, serving the United States Army as a cryptographer. Mr. Austin was awarded the Bronze Star and the Good Conduct Medal.
Throughout his life, Bob Austin thrilled music lovers with his rich baritone voice as a featured soloist. He is remembered for his remarkable bass solos from Handel’s Messiah, and his renditions of The Lord’s Prayer, And This Is My Beloved, and Old Man River. Mr. Austin toured with, and was an executive board member of, the Southern California Choral Society. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church’s choir, where he served as an elder for many years. Mr. Austin has passed on his talent and passion for music to his children, grandchildren, and great grandson.
In 1983 he married Genevieve (Betty) J. Crawford, a fellow Downey community volunteer. Together they served as charter members of the Downey Symphonic Society, and of The Downey Regional Medical Center Memorial Trust Foundation’s 12:15 Club. They enjoyed eighteen years of marriage before she preceeded him in death.
Bob is survived by his four children from his marriage to Dorothy Wells: Bob Austin of Napa, California; Kathy Way of Oakland, California; Dorothy Armstrong of Los Angeles, California; and Donna Palmberg of Fremont, California; eight grandchildren; a great-grandson; and the daughters and granddaughter of his deceased wife, Betty Crawford Austin; along with a host of extended family members and friends.
Memorial services will be held at The First Presbyterian Church of Downey, 10544 Downey Avenue, on Saturday, July 30 at 10:30 a.m.
Published: July 21, 2011 – Volume 10 – Issue 14