Robert (“Bob”) Leonard Estes passed away peacefully with family around him on February 18th, 2021 at the age of 71. Born in Portland, Oregon on January 15, 1950, he did not stay in one place long and joined the Navy in 1969 during the Vietnam War. After serving four years on an aircraft carrier, he returned stateside, explored the West Coast and attended school in San Diego. We often heard stories of his adventures in Yosemite, Yellowstone, and more, but Bob heard the call of the ocean and in 1977 moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where he soon became a Zoo Keeper at the Honolulu Zoo. He received the beloved nickname ZooBob given his passion and devotion for the care he provided to a large array of exotic creatures. He would often say it was “The best job I ever had”. Bob met Trish in Honolulu and after several dates with backstage tours of the Zoo and a dance or two, Trish was smitten and they tied the knot in 1989, welcoming their first child, Christina later that year. Their son, Robert, was born a few years later 1991. After 16 years of soaking up the sun in Hawaii, in 1993 Bob and family moved to his home state of Oregon where Bob, who had retired after 15 years from the Zoo due to an injury, decided to pursue a 3-year Master program in acupuncture at the Oregon College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Bob worked as an Acupuncturist in Oregon until the family moved again in 2003 to Trish’s home state of North Carolina. In Chapel Hill, NC Bob eventually reconnected with his love of animals working for the UNC Francis Owen Blood Research Lab, a research facility studying hemophilia in dogs and pigs for eventual human application. He was dedicated to his work, retiring from the lab in March 2019 after working for more than a year after his initial cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Bob will be remembered for being the life of a party where he would tell funny stories and jokes - many about the zoo and the animals he cared for. He loved to dance with his wife to a large assortment of musical favorites and could tell you the year, band and band members of almost any song. He had one of the best and most genuine smiles you’d see and was remembered by everyone as a man who lived life positively. Many of us remember his many “Bobisms” and sayings that his children would often finish as he started them. He enjoyed his alone time in the yard, his second love, often covered with dirt tending to the many plants. During the colder months he focused on his obsession with house plants, whatever he could do to stay connected to nature.
ZooBob is survived by his sister Beverly Myers of Damascus, Oregon, his wife Patricia Allen Estes (Trish), his daughter Christina Allen Estes Bunch and husband Army CPT Wendell Bunch and their daughter Aurora Bunch, and son Robert Allen Estes and his fiancé Alexa Bishop.
The family will recognize and celebrate Bob as he requested by traveling to Yosemite National Park hopefully in the spring. In recognition of ZooBob and his love of animals and nature, the family suggests a donation to either the National Parks Foundation or the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.
A specific Zoobob/Bob Estes page has been setup at the National Parks website for you to make a donation:
You can donate to the North Carolina Zoo by accessing the following site:
where you can also designate Bob’s wife Trish to be notified of your recognition of Bob by entering the following email address in the designated field: