Pleasanton Weekly

- December 14, 2012

Bob Tucknott

Lifetime Achievement

by Glenn Wohltmann

Around Pleasanton, Bob Tucknott is known as a go-to guy. Whether it's flying a search-and-rescue mission or transporting a sick child to a hospital or giving a speech, ask him and he'll be there.

"I guess I've got a reputation for getting things done," Tucknott said.

Tucknott has been a member of too many organizations to list. He's been chairman of the board or the president of the Dublin Rotary Club, the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce, the San Leandro Boys and Girls Club, the Eden area YMCA, the San Leandro Exchange Club and a commander of the Alameda County Sheriff's Air Squadron -- just to name a few.

He is currently an honorary member of five local Rotary Clubs, and a member of the Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Alamo and Livermore chambers of commerce.

As Past Captain of the Alameda County Sheriff's Air Squadron, he logged hundreds of hours in his Cessna, helping law enforcement, search and rescue, and disaster assessment, plus giving relief and administrative support.

He has a longstanding commitment to Angel Flight, a volunteer organization that arranges free air transportation, via private aircraft, for those in medical and financial need.

"When it looks like a good thing, I join it. There's more to life than work," Tucknott said. "I get more out of it than I get from my work. Money comes and goes."

Tucknott has personally flown more than 268 missions since 1999, and has volunteered for them since 1996.

According to Angel Flight, their pilots log an average of five hours per flight at a cost of $185 per hour for a Cessna 185 like Tucknott's.

That totals nearly $248,000 in personal expense to serve people who can never repay him.

"During his tenure as the Northern California Wing Leader, Bob liked to accurately boast that the Northern California wing was the 'flyingest' wing in the organization," said Cheri Cimmarrusti, associate executive director of Angel Flight West in her nomination of Tucknott for the Pleasanton Weekly's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tucknott said he joined that organization on a whim.

"One day, about 20 years ago, I was at a pilot's show in San Jose, and I walked past a booth. There was one guy there manning it and it was Angel Flight," he said. "I didn't have any reason to fly at the time. I just came back and joined."

Tucknott's office walls are filled with awards that came from a lifetime of giving, but he said what he treasures most is a handwritten letter from someone he flew during an Angel Flight mission.

"I broke all the rules. We're not supposed to take a flight unless they're ambulatory," he explained. In this case, a dying woman and her husband needed to go from Reno to Salinas.

"She wanted to be home to die with her family," Tucknott said. The woman arrived in an ambulance, on a gurney. "I said, 'I can't take this mission, I'm not an air ambulance.'"

But true to form, he folded a seat down, set up a hanger for the woman's IV drip, and made it work.

Tucknott said his first volunteer work came young.

"It was a paper drive when I was a Cub Scout," he said. "We went out and collected newspapers. We sold those and used the money for our Cub Scout troop."

It was around the same time that Tucknott had his first experience as an entrepreneur. "As a kid," he said, "I raised tropical fish and sold then to pet stores."

That entrepreneurial spirit never left him.

In 1972 he started Tucknott Electric Co. in San Leandro, with "a couple of old trucks, one electrician and an old building I paid $800 a month for."

But it's his volunteer works that clearly makes him most proud, and his ability to get done pretty much anything that's put in front of him.

He recalled being challenged to get a patient from New York to the Bay Area -- too far for Angel Flight and too sick for a commercial flight.

Tucknott set it up with a single phone call.

"I never look down and say something's impossible. You just have to figure out how to get it done," he said.

Hero FYI

* Bob Tucknott considers raising his four children as a single father his greatest achievement. All of his children graduated college and bought homes before they were 25 years old.

* He spent 10 years racing cars and one year as a professional racecar driver.

* Tucknott is a forensic electrical expert, qualified to testify in court as an expert witness about electrical fires.

* When he had his hip replaced for a second time after hitting a tree in a skiing accident, doctors told him he'd never ski again. Tucknott went on to win the Far West Ski Championship for slalom racing at Lake Tahoe's Northstar resort.

* Tucknott took Dublin Rotary from 30 members to 66 members and raised three times the amount of money than any year in the history of the club. It was operating at a deficit when he joined, but he left the treasury with $60,000 in it.

* On a Rotarian trip to Africa in 1988, Tucknott administered polio vaccine drops to children. He still has friends in Africa from that trip.

* Tucknott was among a team that built a school in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, a five-year project.

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