Bob Shor, the man with the starting pistol at countless track meets, dies at 76

Bob Shor, a longtime Santa Rosa track-and-field official, has died at 76.|

For decades at footraces throughout Sonoma County and much of Northern California, Bob Shor was the lanky, exacting guy with a stepladder beneath him and a starter’s pistol raised above his head.

Typically the battle-wounded Vietnam veteran and lifelong believer in the myriad benefits of competitive running was the first person to arrive at the track or cross-country course and the last to leave.

Widely praised for positively influencing legions of young runners, Shor died of carcinoid tumors Wednesday at his Santa Rosa home. He was 76.

“Runners, on your mark!” he barked at the starting lines of as many as 100 running events a year. But before raising his blanks-loaded pistol, Shor always savored speaking with the student athletes about how and where they needed to be and what they needed to do as their starting time approached.

The Brooklyn native and 41-year resident of Sonoma County thought it demonstrable that the life skills children learn from participation in track and field or cross-country are invaluable to other aspects of their lives.

Mark Drafton of the nonprofit Santa Rosa Express youth running club said Shor “liked to see kids set goals. He liked to see them be persistent and to persevere through setbacks.” Shor was a pillar of the club going back to 1987.

He told Press Democrat sports columnist Bob Padecky in 2011, “I can’t tell you how many parents have come up to me over the years and thanked me. Their kids were more focused. Their kids were more disciplined. Their kids took responsibility for their actions.

“I can say without exaggeration that almost all of the kids who have gone through the Express have gone on to lead successful lives. That’s why track is the greatest sport as far as I’m concerned. It teaches all those things.”

As a teenager and young adult, Shor ran long-distance races at Great Neck High School on Long Island and at the Pennsylvania Military College. Upon graduation from military school, he became an Army officer and found he liked the precision and adherence to rules required by the armed services.

In 1963, said Shor’s daughter, Adrienne Anila of the Sierra County town of Sattley, “He went to Vietnam on purpose.” Americans were there then as advisors to the South Vietnamese in their war with the North.

In 1964, Shor was badly injured in a land mine explosion. He spent six months in treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland. He retired from the Army as a captain in 1966.

He worked most of his civilian career in sales and advertising. He sold ads for The Eureka Times-Standard and, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, The Press Democrat. At the time of retirement in 2000 he was a salesman for Windsor Vineyards.

Retirement, said his wife of 37 years, Alix Shor, allowed him to concentrate more fully on “his real passion. That, 100 percent, was track and cross-country.”

As an expert among the region’s certified track-and-field officials, Bob Shor was familiar to generations of runners as their track meets’ no-nonsense, on-schedule starter and adjudicator of false starts. He also helped to coach track at Santa Rosa High School and was active in the Empire Runners Club.

Among the honors Shor received for his voluntary service to young people were the Kathy Van Riper Inspiration Award and recognition as an American Red Cross “Real Hero.” The Santa Rosa Express named a scholarship for him.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. That same year he underwent surgery to remove two-thirds of a lung. Last December he was weakened by surgery to remove part of his liver. He officiated at his final race just prior to a hospital visit.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Shor is survived by his sister, Karen Leeds of Freeland, Washington, and two grandsons.

A celebration of his life is being planned.

His family suggests memorial contributions to the Santa Rosa High School Foundation, P.O. Box 11006, Santa Rosa 95406.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and

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