Robert Leo "Bob" Polvi
April 10, 1935 - September 19, 2016
Robert Leo “Bob” Polvi, age 81, of Salem, Oregon, passed away in his home, surrounded by friends and family, on Monday, September 19, 2016.
Bob was born in Hopewell, Oregon on April 10, 1935 to first generation Finnish parents, George W. and Esther E. Kangas Polvi. He graduated from Amity High School in 1953 and continued on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Oregon State University in 1958.
Bob married his high school sweetheart, Viola Faye Jean Warren, on August 11, 1953. They were married 60 years, and had four children and ten grandchildren. Their long union was punctuated by many geographical moves (38 in total) and travels that spanned six continents. Bob and Viola enjoyed exploring the world’s cultures and cultivating life-long friendships. One of Bob’s greatest joys in life was visiting with his family and friends from all parts of the world at his California beach house at Pajaro Dunes on Monterey Bay, then, after Bob’s retirement, at his idyllic home in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bob’s career as a civil engineer in the heavy construction industry spanned over three decades, and included a number of outstanding professional achievements. Bob rose through the ranks to the position of member of the Board of Directors of Bechtel Group, Inc. (1984-92), one of the world’s largest civil engineering design and construction firms, and President for Bechtel Civil Inc. (1986-91). Highlights of Bob’s career include serving as Project Manager on the Kastraki Hydroelectric Dam in Greece in the late 1960s, the Ludington Pumped Storage Power Plant in the early 1970's, and the Riyadh King Khaled International Airport the largest airport in the world at that time in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970's – early 1980's. Bob’s pumped storage project in Ludington, Michigan, was selected the Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement in 1973 by the American Society of Civil Engineers. One of Bob’s last major projects was putting out oil well fires in Kuwait after Iraq invaded the small country on the Persian Gulf in 1990. Bob was a President of the US Commission on Large Dams and a longstanding member of the International Commission on Large Dams, the Beavers surface engineering and the Moles tunnel engineering. Bob also remained active through Oregon State University. In 1994, in collaboration with the Beavers Charitable Trust, Bob established The Beavers/R.L. Polvi Heavy Construction Endowed Scholarship, which provides scholarships for construction engineering management and civil engineering students who plan to pursue a career in heavy construction. In 1999, Bob was inducted into the OSU College of Engineering Hall of Fame.
Bob retired from Bechtel in 1991, but his entrepreneurial spirit led him to continue working as a sought-after consultant and business owner. As an avid auto racing fan, one of Bob’s favorite projects post-retirement was providing his engineering know-how in the construction of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In addition, Bob and Viola headed up the formation of Polvi Farms, Inc., an apple and cherry farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Bob’s vision for the company was to give back to the community from which he came and also to bring his family closer together.
Despite his success as an engineer, Bob was as comfortable on a John Deere tractor as he was in the board room. He was known for his generous spirit and for treating everyone as an equal. Bob worked hard, but he also took time to enjoy life. Many of his friends and family will remember him floating in his pool, a Foster’s beer in one hand and a big cigar in the other, or watching a football game or Nascar race on a Sunday afternoon. And he had a unique way of ending a visit or a phone call, not with good-bye, but “so long” (until we meet again). So long, Bob/Dad/Grandpa, you will be deeply missed.
Bob is survived by his children, Pamela, Michael (Kelly), Steven (Carolyn) and Susan (Thomas); his grandchildren, Lacey, Noelle, Matthew, Michael, John, Jacob, Daniel, Tyler, Hanna and Ryan; his brothers, George (Margaret), Gary, and Ronald (Marylou); and many other family and friends.
Bob is preceded in death by his beloved wife, Viola Polvi, his parents, George and Esther Polvi, his brother, Allan Polvi, his in-laws, Jess and Maggie Warren, and Viola’s siblings, Bonnie Perkins (Charles), Lee Warren (Jean), George Warren (Mildred), Dorothy “Sister” Garrett (Edwin), Jesse “Sonny” Warren (Alice), Rosetta Rigsby (Jessie), Jeraldine Coleman (Lincoln), and Ferne Adams (Joseph).
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be directed to The Beavers/R.L. Polvi Heavy Construction Scholarship at Oregon State University. Contact OSU Foundation at 800 354-7281 or go to OSUFoundation.org. The family of Robert Leo Polvi wishes to thank his dedicated care providers and Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 6, 2016 at Zenith Vineyard, 5657 Zena Road NW, Salem, Oregon 97304.