Dr. Robert “Bob” James Harriman, 73, of Pensacola Beach, FL, peacefully went home to his eternal resting place in heaven on Sunday, February 7, 2021. His wish over these last 2.5 years of battling cancer was to just go to sleep and wake up in heaven, and we are thankful that his wish came true.
Hailing from Marysville, Ohio, Bob spent his early adult years in St. Petersburg, FL, and then lived for the next 50+ years in the Pensacola area, beginning in 1970. He was born on May 4, 1947, in Columbus, OH, to James S. Harriman and Margena Streng Harriman. Bob spent his youth in Marysville, OH, and graduated from Marysville High School (the “Monarchs”) in 1965.
In his youth, Bob was an avid athlete playing football and boxing throughout his teenage years. Following high school, Bob enrolled in the University of Cincinnati from 1965-1967 to become certified as a Registered Radiologic Technologist. After gaining this credential, he packed up and moved to Florida, attending college at St. Petersburg Junior College from 1967-1969.
Bob relocated to Pensacola in 1970 and would remain there for the rest of his life. From 1970-1984, Bob earned his Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Master of Education (Educational Leadership) and Doctorate in Education (Organizational Leadership) through the University of West Florida and Florida State University.
With a background in medical diagnostic imaging and graduate education in leadership and management, Bob set about working in the world of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging in Pensacola, FL. Bob served in a variety of leadership roles in Pensacola hospitals, notably West Florida Regional Medical Center from 1976 to 1991. It was here that Bob started the West Florida Regional Medical Center School of Radiologic Technology and was so proud of all the students he taught and mentored.
He also served in multiple leadership roles throughout Baptist Health Care from 1991 to 2013. Bob’s love for his staff and personal connection to them endeared to him many long-term friendships throughout his tenure. His career included service as Administrator of Gulf Breeze Baptist Hospital and Baptist Health Care Senior Vice President (2005-2013). During this era, he was also the inaugural administrator of the Andrews Institute for Orthopedic and Sports Medicine (2006-2013). Most notably during his tenure with Baptist Health Care, Bob was honored to be a strategic member of the team delivering the care that earned Baptist Hospital the Baldrige National Quality Award in 2003. Later in his career, Bob would be selected as a national judge on the Baldrige Quality Award evaluation team.
In addition to Bob’s professional career, he was a tireless servant to his local community, functioning as a role model for active, engaged citizenship. He took special pride in his role as Troop Leader, Troop 175 Gulf Coast Council, Boys Scouts of America (1994-1996). He spent numerous hours as an Assistant Football Coach, Gulf Breeze Sports Association (1995-1997). Bob and his wife, Bette, were also active members of the Pensacola Mayoki Indians Court of 1999, the Pensacola Yacht Club, the Pensacola Beach Yacht Club, and the Pensacola Beach Elks Lodge. Bob was immensely proud to serve on the City of Gulf Breeze Master Planning Committee (2008-2009) and also as a Gulf Breeze Rotary Club Member, later advancing to Rotary Club President Elect and President (2010-2011).
Those that knew Bob closest would describe him as sharp witted, exuberant, fiercely independent, and a “man for all seasons.” A voracious reader, Bob consumed hundreds of books in his lifetime, loving the works of John D. MacDonald, John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum, Kurt Vonnegut, and Clive Cussler. He was also known as an eloquent and expressive speaker with a huge vocabulary. He especially loved to use a “five-dollar word,” often preceded or succeeded by a strategically placed “four-letter word.”
As a jack-of-all trades, Bob had many hobbies and interest areas and excelled at all of them. Among those things, he was known to enjoy motorcycles, playing sports (Rugby, Softball, Golf), carpentry, dominos and musical interests spanning “solid gold oldies,” classic rock, and of course, he knew the words to every Jimmy Buffett song. More than any hobby, Bob was best known as an accomplished sailor, competing in numerous regattas on Pensacola Bay and participation in the 1997 Havana Cup Regatta.
After retirement, Bob had the opportunity to fulfill his dream to live and vacation in the mountains. He designed and built a beautiful home in the Smokey Mountains of Franklin, NC, where he and Bette created memories with family and friends under the beautiful blue skies of North Carolina.
Given all those accomplishments, credentials, and endeavors, Bob was most proud of his life as a husband and family man. After marrying the love of his life, Bette Desmond Harriman, on November 4, 1992, Bob was a caring, compassionate, and devoted husband to Bette until he left this world. Moreover, he was a strong, exemplary, and tender father to his “bonus kids,” Natalie Pollard and Seth Gulsby. Throughout his life Bob has been referred to by many names such as Bobby, Bob, Bobbo, Dr. Bob, Hair the Bear, and many more, but his most treasured name in the last decade of his life reflected his new role as “Poppy” to his four grandkids, Colton Pollard (12), Bronson Pollard (10), Marlee Gulsby (7), and Rocky Gulsby (6).
Bob was preceded in death by his father, James S. Harriman. He is survived by his mother, Margena S. Harriman, Haines City, FL; his wife of 28 years, Bette Desmond Harriman; his daughter, Natalie Henderson Pollard, Pensacola Beach, FL; his son, Seth Adam Gulsby (Amanda), Land O Lakes, FL; his siblings, Linda Raymond (Jim), Sun City Center, FL; Sheila Green (Bill), Bucyrus, OH; Jeff Harriman (Jill), Marysville, OH; and numerous nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his constant canine companion, Luke Skywalker Harriman.
The family wishes to extend our deepest gratitude for the care provided by the loving and compassionate staff of the Baptist Hospital Kugelman Cancer Center, the Gulf Breeze Hospital Ciano Cancer Center, and Covenant Care Home Health and Hospice services. In lieu of flowers or food, donations would be greatly appreciated to these amazing organizations. You can donate at:
Due to the current pandemic and associated restrictions on travel and gathering, Bob’s family will not hold an in-person funeral service. Instead, a one-time virtual memorial service will be held on the tentative date of Saturday May 1, 2021. A few weeks after the online service, the family will arrange a “paddle out” in the waters near Pensacola Beach on Saturday May 15, 2021; an opportunity for friends and loved ones to circle up surfboards, paddleboards, kayaks, and boats, and remember Bob in words and scriptures near his cherished beach home. All final details on both events will be distributed via Bette Harriman’s personal Facebook page in the weeks to follow.