"Invest...first in yourself, your family, your future!" - Robert Kussman, 2014
13th was Robert N. Kussman’s lucky day! Twice he beat the odds and survived almost
certain peril on that ominous day.
At age 12
with his family, Bob’s father immigrated to Portland, Oregon from Vis, a small
Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea and finally settled in Astoria. Bob’s father was trained to be a plumber,
eventually named Master Plumber #1 in the State of Oregon. During that time, he
met Bob’s mother as she attended business school. Bob was born on March 15, 1925 and raised in
Astoria with his only sister, Frances.
Bob’s father was committed to hard work and investing in securing his
children’s future through education.
Bob was always
fascinated with flying and took a training test that was offered at Astoria
High School, in 1943. He showed aptitude
and wanted to join the Naval Air Corps, but his father insisted on college. So Bob enlisted on July 1, 1943 in the Navy
College Training Program in Colorado to study engineering. He later did take the step to become a pilot switching
to the Navy V-5 Flight Training Program.
He progressed to NAS Oakland for boot camp, followed by San Luis Obispo
for flight prep and later, Glenview, Illinois.
It was there, on his first solo flight, Friday the 13th of February,
1944, Bob took off in a bi-wing, open cockpit plane. He went through his maneuvers and decided to
finish with a loop. As he approached the
top of the loop, upside down, his seat came loose and he fell part way out of
the cockpit. Without capacity to reach
the stick or the pedals, the plane was momentarily out of his control, and
nearly without Bob! As the plane slowly turned,
he was finally able to pull himself back into the cockpit and regain control of
the plane. It was a very close call!
years in the Naval Air Corps, Bob flew nearly every type of aircraft. Today, he has models of most of them all in
his home office. He always wanted
fighters, but during the World War II, was assigned PBY Amphibian Float
Planes. When the war ended, he was
stationed at Cecil Field in Florida. His
unit and companion unit were responsible for forming the Blue Angels.
left the service, he returned to the Pacific Northwest, was married and raised
sons, Don and David. However, he
remained in the Reserves and his total military flying career covered 33 years.
Unfortunately, Bob’s wife, Bonnie,
passed away during this period and Bob, with the help of his parents, was left
alone to raise his two young sons. His
career path took another direction when he met Oscar Kretschmar, the manager of
Container Corporation in Tacoma. He was
instantly taken with Oscar, an orphan who grew up in Chicago and whose ambition
eventually caught the attention of company ownership. He worked his way up to a management position
with the company. Oscar saw something
special in Bob and sent him to Los Angeles to train in one of the company’s
mills. Upon returning, he worked hard
and later was made Superintendent of the Tacoma mill. Oscar was smart and became wealthy in the
stock market. He shared his knowledge
and his stock broker with Bob. Bob was intrigued with investing and mirrored
Oscar’s examples. All of it paid off.
Corporation was headquartered in Chicago, so the Tacoma plant was a world
away. Bob and Oscar did very well,
picking up old equipment very inexpensively, from all the other mills. They built productivity from 25 to 100 tons a
day over the years, all with second hand equipment. Bob became the General Manager when Oscar
retired in 1972. Oscar and Bob were
rewarded watching their retirement funds grow due to diligence and shrewd
investing throughout their careers.
else Oscar introduced Bob to was the Boys Club. Oscar was a supporter of the work they did
with local boys and encouraged Bob to get involved. Following Oscar’s example, Bob joined the
Board of the South End Club in the 1950’s, even serving as its President one
year. He loved the staff and mission of
the organization and the philosophy of investing in youth. Over the years, that commitment has also
grown and resulted in rich return on investment!
was left to house-sit for Oscar and Evalyn Kretschmar’s summer home in
Alderbrook when they travelled. On one
occasion, Bob was introduced to Lois, a widow with two daughters, Linda and
Leslee, who were living in a small beach cabin on Hood Canal. Both were smitten and it was not too long
before they were married. The tiny beach
cabin became a summer retreat for all extended family members and is filled
with adventures and happy memories.
But one more
visit to the past…
Bob’s commitment with the Naval Air Corps took him away from Tacoma. While in Oakland with the Reserves, Bob flew
an F9F Panther Jet with 6,000 pounds of fuel and 1,000 pounds of 20 mm ammo on
a gunnery flight. He was at 1,200 feet
going 250 knots when the engine went quiet…just quit! The plane was so heavy that it started
dropping like a rock. Out of the corner
of his eye, he spotted a runway and urged and willed the plane toward it. He dropped the hook and it missed the first
wire. He continued and managed to snag
the second landing wire, with no power and little control of the plane. It shouldn’t have happened, but he arrived shaken,
yet safely on the ground at 1:00 pm. The
date was Friday, the 13th of July, 1956. Bob remembered that the paperwork was a
nightmare and it was sometime before the cause, identified as equipment
malfunction, was learned. Another close
call on another Friday the 13th!
from the Navy Reserves in 1973. He
retired from the Container Corporation in 1987.
nine stock splits with Exxon Mobile, his growing stock portfolio allowed Bob
and Lois to purchase a 35’ RV and they spent the next few years putting over
105,000 miles on it as they travelled the country. Meanwhile, their stock investments continued
to grow and fund their travels. It also
helped them form an annual family gathering.
In early years, the destination varied, but became a solid tradition
when they landed at the Anderson Lodge in Cougar, Washington, near Mount St.
Helens, for their Christmas weekend reunion every year. The Lodge is comfortable and big enough to
handle the 20-30 family members who attend.
It is a time to reflect and pass along family values and get to know the
grandchildren. Sharing investment
success and creating a little sibling competition, with parental matching funds
has also helped pass along the merits of saving, investments and philanthropy
& Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound has also grown and multiplied over the
years. While Bob passed away in 2015, his legacy remains with the Clubs as Lois stays invested here. She is able to enjoy their return on investment every year as she attends the Youth of the Year event with
members of their family. These are proud
and earned accomplishments through many years of hard work and tenacious
investing that has paid off, with maybe some incredible luck, especially on
Friday the 13th.