Robert “Robin” Pennell passed away on December 21, 2020 after a short illness. He was 92.
Born in 1928 in Fresno, California, to Frank and Ruth Pennell, he spent most of his childhood in Berkeley, and was a lifelong resident there. Toward the end of World War II, he enrolled at Harvard University at age 16, graduating in 1951 after a two-year enlistment in the Marine Corps. He was a war correspondent for International News Service (INS) during the Korean War, and covered the peace negotiations at Panmunjom. As a newspaperman and on his travels he came face-to-face with extraordinary individuals, among them, Harry S Truman, Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe.
Robin married his wife, Annette Close Pennell, in 1957. They hosted many large and lively social gatherings at their home. They shared a love of travel to U.S. National Parks, New England, England, Europe and the Americas.
On starting a family, Robin left the news world, becoming a technical editor, and working for Aerojet General and EG&G until retirement. He maintained warm friendships with his colleagues throughout his later life.
A renaissance man and avid reader, Robin possessed an immense store of knowledge and was a captivating storyteller. He told many tales of life in Berkeley during the Depression and World War II and was asked often to describe the creative and eccentric artists and academics of “Nut Hill.” He was a mentor and example to many young people, many of whom continue to express their appreciation of how he helped to shape their characters to this day. His influence was especially felt by members of Berkeley Scout Troop 23, for which he was scoutmaster during the late sixties and seventies.
A lifelong poet and writer, Robin, with Annette, enjoyed their membership in the Claremont Club, where he is fondly remembered as their poet laureate. He was a member of a monthly book club for over 25 years that included friends from his youth. Robin loved the natural places of California, especially the Desolation Wilderness, Yosemite, Mt. Tamalpais, and Tilden Park. He filed a mining claim to pan for gold in Trinity County in his twenties and built a log cabin there which stood for many decades. It was a favorite destination for his scouts, his family, and friends.
Taught by his own father, he was also an excellent carpenter, building additions to his home. He created a vast miniature city and a backyard playhouse for his niece, nephews and daughters, and built 15-foot-tall bookcases to line the walls of his extensive and beautiful library.
Robin was preceded in death by Annette in 2010, to whom he was married for 53 years; and by his brother Donn in 2018. Robin leaves his two daughters, Ruth Ann (Mrs. David) Doneux of Seattle, Washington and Allison (Mrs. Allen) Fish of Berkeley, California; three grandchildren, Jack Fish, Margot Fish, and Dominic Doneux; many loving relatives of the extended family, and devoted friends and neighbors, old and new.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to one of Robin’s favorite non-profits: Chaparral House in Berkeley, the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, and the Wounded Warrior Project.