Long Beach Surfrider founding member Robert Palmer, 68, died Friday, Sept. 1, after a battle against the West Nile virus.

robert palmer

Palmer and others formed the Long Beach chapter of the California-based environmental group Surfrider in 1996. Palmer led the charge by creating the Sink the Breakwater project, promoting the cause with public speaking, meetings and public events.

He said numerous times that his purpose was to bring waves back to Long Beach. He frequently debated Port of Long Beach representatives and Peninsula homeowners about the impacts of lowering or removing parts of the breakwater.

Studies about the project were discussed as early as 2006, but funding stopped the Army Corps of Engineers from doing anything until 2016, when the Corps agreed to an area-wide study including the breakwater. Palmer was at the signing ceremony when the three-year study officially began.

Palmer also focused on cleaning the beaches, co-hosting cleanups with different groups up to four weekends a month. Justin Rudd's 30-minute beach cleanup this month (Sept. 16) will be dedicated to Palmer.

"He was passionate about the environment, and sinking the breakwater," Lori Palmer, Robert's wife since 1988, said. "He made us, his son and me, environmentalists, too."

He graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a masters degree in art and owned Palmer Designs, an advertising and design firm, on Broadway for the last 30 years or so. He also taught art in area high schools.

"Robert was a surfer, sailor, motorcyclist, businessman, environmental activist, husband, and father," a remembrance on the Long Beach Surfrider website says. "His tireless efforts and his presence in Long Beach was a blessing and he will be truly missed."

Palmer is survived by his wife, Lori; son Coleton; two daughters from a previous marriage named Ashleigh and Simone; and two sisters in Illinois, Kathy and Bernice.

A memorial service will begin at 11 a.m. this Saturday at Bay Shore Community Congregational Church, 5100 E. The Toledo, with a reception to follow. Memorial donations to Long Beach Surfrider are encouraged. The address is P.O. Box 14627, Long Beach, 90853 or go to www.lbsurfrider.org.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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