Beloved BATW Member Bob Bone Dies at Age 90

Bob Bone’s obituary, as written by close friend Bob Hollis.
Robert W. Bone, a pioneering journalist, author and world traveler died Feb. 1 at his home in Walnut Creek, Calif. of complications from a broken hip. He was 90.
Mr. Bone created and wrote the Maverick Guides to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, which were published starting in the early 1970s. They were among the best selling guides for American travelers to the Pacific for more than two decades. His Maverick Guide to Hawaii, which went through 22 annual revisions, establish him as one of the preeminent travel writers in Hawaii.
In addition to publishing five books, Mr. Bone worked for 28 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and photographer. He landed his first writing job in 1956 at the Buffalo (N.Y.) Courier- Express. By the time he retired from journalism at the Honolulu Advertiser in 1984, he had worked for numerous publications, including Time-Life in New York, the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico, and an English-language business magazine in Brazil.
In all, he and his family lived and worked on three continents. As a travel writer, he visited more than 100 countries, and set foot on all seven continents, including Antarctica.
“Bob Bone was kind and super talented,” said Denby Faucett, a newspaper and television journalist in Honolulu. “Bob freely and generously helped me with my writing. I was hoping he would live forever.”
“He was a remarkable original, generous in his life and work, and almost industrial in his output” of stories and books, said Walter Wright, a former colleague at the Advertiser. “He lived a full life.”
 After leaving daily journalism, Mr. Bone established himself as one of the busiest self-employed travel journalists in the Hawaiian Islands. Working from home in Kailua, a suburb of Honolulu, he found himself in great demand at the dawn of the age of home computing, digital photography and the Internet. He painstakingly taught himself how to send his stories, and later digital photos, from his computer over ordinary telephone lines. It was the early 80s, a time when newspapers around the world were developing the ability to accept stories and photos electronically.
“Bob Bone, I believe, was the first journalist in Hawaii to buy a computer and modem for his home-office,” said Robert Hollis, a reporter and editor who became a friend of Mr. Bone when he joined the Honolulu newspaper in 1971. “He literally taught picture editors and travel editors across the country how to use the new technology.
“It’s hard to believe now, but in the early 80s, if you had to send a story to a Mainland newspaper from Honolulu. you had to take it to the RCA office downtown to send it by Telex,” he said. “It was a real pain.”
Mr. Bone was born in Gary, Ind., the only son of Robert O. and Juanita (Clapp) Bone. He grew up in Pekin, Ill. and Bowling Green, Ohio where he graduated in 1954 from Bowling Green State University, majoring in Journalism. He subsequently served in the Army for two years, discharged as a second lieutenant.
In addition to the Maverick Guides, he also wrote a guide to Alaska. In 2014, at age 81, he published his autobiography, “Fire Bone, A Maverick Guides to a Life in Journalism.” The title refers to a time in the late 1950s when Mr. Bone was working as a photographer for the Middletown (N.Y.) Record. One day, the publisher noticed that Mr. Bone left the trunk lid of his car open, exposing company camera equipment to potential theft.
 Livid, the publisher sent a two-word note to the Record’s editor ordering him to “Fire Bone!” The editor sent a two-word reply: “Bone stays!”
After an on-again-off-again romance that lasted several years, Mr. Bone in 1965 married Sara Cameron, a registered nurse and native of New Zealand. Over the decades, she assisted her husband on many of his book and travel projects, including a three-month research trip to Alaska in the 1980s. They have two children, Christina and David.
After 38 years in Hawaii, the family moved to Rossmoor, a retirement community in Walnut Creek, Calif. where Mr. Bone continued to produce travel articles and his memoir. Deep into his retirement, he would frequently encourage anyone he met to get out and get going. His favorite quote from Mark Twain was, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
In addition to his wife, daughter and son, he is survived by a grandson, Harley Bone, and a foster son, Robert Carlos, both of Honolulu. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

What I learned from Bob Bone

By Jules Older

Before we finally met, I only knew Bob Bone online. He was an established presence on several travel websites, and I was an ex-academic trying to learn the trade.

He taught me a lot about the trade, but the most important lesson I learned from Bob is something he never wrote about. Instead, he lived it.

With me and a myriad of others, Bob Bone was the soul of kindness. Of encouragement. Of information. When you needed or even just wanted help, Bob was there.




Bob always answered, and if he didn’t know the answer — something that rarely happened — he’d look it up.

How did we finally meet? The Olders had a disastrous family week on Kauai — crying kids, sick kids, homesick kids. I must have mentioned it to him in an email. He replied, “When you fly back to Oahu, you have to come to dinner!”

“Bob, we’re whipped. And have no car. Thanks, but it just won’t work.”

“You need a break. A home-cooked meal. I’m picking you up at the airport. Sara and I will take you back to wherever you’re staying. Don’t argue; I’ll meet you at the airport.”

“How will I—”

“I’m easy to spot. Look for the guy with gap-teeth.”

Sure enough, a smiling, gap-toothed guy was waiting when we deplaned. He drove us in his ancient car to his home in the hills, stopping along the way to show us Hawaiian sights. And he was right; we did need a home-cooked meal and a chance to wind-down.

Thanks for the lesson, Bob. Mahalo.





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One Response

  1. When I first met Bob decades ago, I instantly felt I had found a lifelong friend. That was on a train in Thailand. Through the years, we bumped into each other on various press trips. I was delighted when Bob moved to the Bay Area and joined BATW.

    I’ll miss sharing stories with you at our meetings.