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Robert W. Sallee ( Missoula 1949 )

posted: May 30, 2014

Bob died in Sacred Heart Hospital, Spokane on May 26 owing to complications from open-heart surgery. He was born Aug. 18, 1931, in a farmhouse near Willow Creek, Mont.

He was the last living survivor of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire in the Gates of the Mountains, Mont. His escape from that tragedy that killed 12 of his fellow smokejumpers and a fireguard was described in Norman Maclean's 1992 best selling book "Young Men and Fire." Bob was two weeks shy of being 18 when he jumped this fire. He made four more fire jumps before leaving smokejumping.

Bob graduated from high school in Sandpoint, Idaho, and attended the University of Idaho before graduating from Eastern Washington University with an accounting degree in 1973. Over the course of his career he farmed, ran a hardware store and farm implement company in Fairfield, Wash., helped build a paper mill in Missoula, Mont. where he learned that industry, then went on to set up paper mills in New Zealand, India, South Africa and Algeria before settling down in Spokane to work at the Inland Empire Paper Co. for which he was employed for 24 years, eventually becoming the company's production manager before his retirement in 2000.

An avid outdoorsman, Bob was a skilled hunter and fisherman. In addition, for the past six years he participated with other retired smokejumpers restoring historic buildings and maintaining trails in the forests of Idaho and Montana.