Resident Spotlight: Bob Arnold

Most mornings, you can find Bob Arnold situated comfortably in a chair at his favorite Puyallup restaurant, pen in hand. Fueled by a large mug of coffee and a stack of magazine subscriptions including The Economist and Sawmill and Woodlot and a publication on bioenergy, Bob scribbles numbers, ideas and notes onto napkins and tucks them away carefully. He is constantly thinking, constantly learning, and constantly working to understand more—particularly in the field of environmental conservation.

Bob has been an advocate of using nature in a sustainable way with minimal environmental impacts since long before the environmentalism movement took off. A retired teacher, he started teaching the concept of sustainability in 1963, well before the concept was generally known or understood. He refers to himself as a “Republican Environmentalist”, a term whose inherent unconventionality suits him and the ways in which he has pushed boundaries and forged educational experiences that go beyond the classroom.


Bob and his wife, Mariella

Bob and Mariella

Bob was in the middle of teaching a routine experiment on osmosis with his high school Biology class when he looked out the window at the vast forest adjacent to his school building and thought, “Now that is more interesting.” He had heard his superintendent declare that “High school, beyond the 10th grade, is a waste of time.” Bob’s desire to help students learn in a way that was lasting, valuable and transformative instead of routine drove his decision to start a Forestry and Fish and Wildlife program in the Federal Way School District. Bob learned of an undeveloped site owned by the school district with 54 acres and 400 feet of lake frontage and made this site his classroom. In the "land lab," he taught students about spawning salmon and what kind of trees to plant that would thrive and contribute to the area's ecosystem.His days were filled with adventures in hands-on instruction and meaningful interactions with students, some of which went on to pursue education and careers in natural resources technology.

Since Bob’s retirement from teaching, he continues to serve on a number of committees and boards: Pierce County Farm Forestry Board, Green River College Natural Resources Technology board, the Evergreen Woodworks Guild, and the Puyallup Historical Preservation Board, to name a few. His mornings consist of reading and research, but his afternoons are filled with the same type of hands-on learning he taught for so many years. Weekly, he tends to his tree farm in Eatonville. He lives with his wife Mariella in Puyallup, in a home they have owned since 1960.

Both Bob and Mariella were both raised in Puyallup. Bob moved to Puyallup as a young boy, and Mariella was born in the city. They have memories of Puyallup being mostly farmland and fondly recall summer jobs of picking berries and cucumbers in the valley. Bob remembers strapping his boots on to go duck hunting in the Puyallup River, all before the first bell rang at Puyallup High School. Bob’s father was a carpenter, and Bob spent his childhood shadowing his father’s work. He remembers getting paid 25 cents an hour to help pick up nails at his dad’s construction sites. Later, Bob would himself build several homes in the area, including completing work on his own home which was originally built in 1880. Perhaps it was this love for building and woodworking that inspired Bob’s passion for using nature’s resources with minimal environmental impacts. A passion that exists to this day. A passion that continues to drive Bob as a life-long learner and teacher.