Cougar Nation loses a dear friend in JoRob

THE COUGAR family recently lost a friend when Joanne Robertson, wife of legendary Washington State play-by-play announcer Bob Robertson, passed away. "She was as loyal a Cougar as Cougars come," Bob said this week. The two would have celebrated their 60th anniversary on Oct. 22 when the Cougars play Oregon State at Qwest Field.

She passed away on Bob's 82nd birthday.

"She wasn't an (WSU) alum, but she attended as many games as many games as most alums, and most others she listened to on the radio. She attended a lot of Cougar Club functions, and bought many items at the auctions," Bob said.

"Joanne was one of the nicest people I have ever known," said Paul Sorensen, Bob's long-time radio sidekick in the 80s and 90s. "She and Bob were like a second set of parents to me. She was wonderful.

"She never shied away from telling me when I needed to straighten out," Sorensen chuckled. "She was also a great Cougar -- especially during Apple Cup Week. She loved the Cougs."

Joanne and Bob married in 1951, shortly after graduating from Lincoln High School in Tacoma. She raised four children -- Hugh, Janna, John and Rebecca -- worked as a business woman, sang in the University of Puget Sound's Tacoma Civic Choir and danced in Ballet Tacoma.

Joanne may have had the pipes to rival her husband, too. Joanne used to read radio commercials, and Bob said a radio station general manager once said she had the best female voice in Seattle.

Joanne was always there for Bob, the sports play-by-play man. For years, Joanne kept statistics for Bob in the press box at football and baseball games. Joanne was Bob's right hand during the old days of baseball radio play-by-play radio recreations, calling stadiums for updates.

"It's not an easy life being married to someone who is always on the road. She never complained," Bob said. "It takes a very special woman to be married to someone in broadcasting."

Bob said Joanne didn't have a favorite Cougar coach or player.

"She liked all the kids. They were like her extended family," Bob said. "She was so loyal to Washington State. She knew most of the players and coaches. She was a people person. I don't know of anybody that we ever met who didn't like her better than me."

Joanne went on a lot of the road trips with Bob. Long ago, she gave up assisting Bob in the press box. Instead in the hours leading up to a Washington State football game, she would read a book while Bob prepared for the broadcast.

"If it was a good book, she would keep reading until I got excited about something on the air," Bob said.

Because of Joanne's declining health, Bob gave up his baseball play-by-play duties last summer. Bob said he plans to return to the baseball booth on a part-time basis this year, working for the Spokane Indians and Tacoma Rainiers.

Robertson said he has one year remaining on his contract with Washington State.

"I have no idea about my future. My plan will be to remain on," Bob said.

Regardless, the press box will be lonelier for Bob Robertson.

"It will be that, yes," he said.

A memorial for Joanne will be held in May. If you'd like to send a card or note to Bob and the kids, they can addressed to 6321 46th St. Court West, University Place, WA 98466.

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