Robert Joseph Pope
Robert was born the youngest of four children and raised in San Francisco. He attended Saint Ignatius College Preparatory School, University of San Francisco and St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park.
Bob was a charismatic, nurturing, and passionate man. Generous almost to a fault, “Uncle Bob” was well known for good times and good advice. He loved his family, friends, animals, and music.
Bob’s lifelong relationship with music and entertaining began in the choir at the age of 5. He taught himself the guitar during his teens,later enlisting in the U.S. Army, Special Services division. Here he produced and played concerts not just for troops, but also entertained thousands of others on Korean TV working with children to raise funds for the orphanage in Seoul.
Due to Bob’s efforts, his mother Clara and sister Mary adopted one of these very same orphans, and thus Maria Pope Gee became a treasured member of the Pope family.
At the age of five he joined St. Dominic’s Choir and after serving, Robert continued his love of entertaining, singing and playing professional folk guitar in and around San Francisco. Robert was also a businessman, succeeding as a real estate consultant in the Bay Area.
Combining their love of horses and philanthropy, Bob and his wife, Lee Justice founded Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center in 1998. The program began with 10 riders and 19 volunteers, and today has grown to accommodate over 130 riders per week and now offers programs for veterans and active service member families. For their work with Giant Steps, Bob and Lee were awarded the prestigious “Jefferson Award for Public Service” from the Institute of Nonprofit Leadership in Washington D.C. in 2006. A year later, they received the “Real Heroes” award from the American Red Cross.
Bob was also very active in his alma mater, the University of San Francisco. He was a founding member of the School of Business and Management’s Business Advisory Council, and served in that capacity from 1987 to 2006. He was also one of two members of that council to serve as liaison to the school’s International Executive Advisory Board. In 1999 he was the invited commencement speaker at the USF School of Business and Management, and his address focused on the value of non-profits and the service to clients of Giant Steps.
After retiring from Giant Steps in 2011, Bob enjoyed playing guitar, reading, gardening, movies and watching the 49ers.
Bob is survived by his loving children, Christopher Pope, Matthew Pope, Gabrielle Pope Gardner, son-in-law Randy Gardner, and his first wife, Carolyn Crosby. He is also survived by his sisters, Clare Bouquet, Eileen Troyan and many loving nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Leo J. and Clara King Pope, his sister Mary Pope and his wife, Lee Justice.
Robert’s family has requested that donations be made in his name in lieu of flowers.
To donate in Robert’s memory click here.
Lee Chapman Justice
“Miss Lee”, a family name that she liked to be called at Giant Steps, was born in Berlin, Germany. She had developed a strong independence and an ‘I-can-do-it- myself’ attitude, growing up in a single-parent household. She lived in Paris, France and Mexico City, Mexico before her family settled in in northern Virginia. Lee attended Langley High School in McLean, Virginia and then studied at University of Virginia and completed her undergraduate degree at University of Arizona.
Lee was in communications marketing in the years preceding her marriage to Robert Pope and work with Giant Steps. When Robert, the divorced father of three grown kids met Lee Justice, she was employed as an international marketing agent for Rolm Telecommunications. the two shared a love of music and met at a jazz performance. When their eyes met across a crowded room, that was all it took. Both were busy with their careers in the early years of their relationship, and both spent far more time riding in jets to overseas business meetings than riding on horses.
Pope and Justice, who married in 1991, were enjoying their retirement after moving from the Bay Area to Montana, where they raised Tennessee Walkers. One day a friend told them about the benefits of horseback riding for children with physical and mental disabilities. Lee and Robert realized they had the time and resources to create a therapeutic riding center — an idea that felt right to them.
In 1996, they sold their ranch and brought their 12 horses to Petaluma. They spent the next two years building three barns, a riding arena and a training arena on 23 acres. They moved their offices into a small home on the property, got their nonprofit status approved and looked for a staff. “One day, someone — I’ll never know who — put a blurb in a cerebral palsy support group newsletter, and the phone started ringing off the hook. It hasn’t stopped,” said Pope.
A dynamic, go-getter, early on Lee met Jill Eickenberry and through their mutual love for horses, Eickenberry ended up doing a fundraiser – AR GURNEY’S Love Letters at Spreckels Performing Arts Center – to raise money for the fledgling program started by Lee and Robert. Lee later convinced Jill to join the Board of Directors. She also recruited her cousin, Turner Madden of Delaware, to serve on the board as well.
Lee wore many hats throughout the 16 years that she selflessly dedicated to Giant Steps, serving as Founder, Director of Program Services, Instructor, and even after retirement as Community Liaison.
When it came to working on behalf of the children, Lee was relentless in her work. She pursued all avenues of possible income, was on a constant search for new donors, and always kept an eye out for anyone who might benefit from the services Giant Steps offers. Nonetheless, Miss Lee said that the long hours in this shared career, bring far deeper rewards measured in small but significant accomplishments. “It’s so rewarding, even on the days when it’s so hard,” she said.
Lee’s family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Giant Steps in her name.
In 2005, they were awarded the Bay Area Jefferson Award for their incredible work creating one of the largest therapeutic riding centers in the country.
She was predeceased by her parents, Cecelia Chapman Justice of Virginia and Philip Hathaway Clark II of Arizona and her husband, Robert Pope.
She is survived by her elder brother, Philip Clark, his wife, Inga Clark and their children Jason and Daniel as well as her younger sister, Chilo Obolensky and her children Alexander and Christopher, all of whom live in Virginia as well as her first husband, Bruce Cordell of California.
Miss Lee’s hard-working positive attitude, huge heart, warm smile and enthusiastic spirit will be sorely missed, of course by everyone at Giant Steps, but also by so many in the Northern California community and her family.
To donate in Lee’s memory click here.