Former ABC7 Inland Empire Bureau Chief Bob Banfield has passed away


Bob retired in May 2010 after 43 years of service to ABC7 viewers. While he was a fixture on Eyewitness News for decades, out in the Inland Empire, Bob was more than that, he was like a friend to practically everyone.

And today, countless people are mourning his loss.

"He's going to be missed. He was a fixture in the community for a very long time," said Riverside resident Victoria Matlock. "He was a very kind, caring man. I liked his reporting and the way he told stories."

"I watched him all the time, and we'll just really, really miss him," said Corona resident Gloria Neisinger.

And for those who worked with Bob for decades, it's especially difficult.

"I got the news about Bob this morning, and the first thing that went through my mind was golly, I'm so glad to have known him," said Jim Wilkins, who worked with Bob as a public information officer with the San Bernardino County Fire Department. "He was honest, he told our story honestly and without embellishment. We could trust him."

Bob also had humility and he never took himself too seriously. At the bureau, his co-workers forced Bob to put all his awards on the wall. Before that most of them were gathering dust on the floor.

"Hanging around Bob made you feel good, it was like hanging around an uncle that you missed," said Dennis Gutierrez, a former public information officer for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

He says quite often Bob got the story before the officials did.

"The challenge for law enforcement when they showed up at a crime scene was that people didn't want to talk with the detectives (and) to the cops, they wanted to talk to Bob and tell him what happened," Gutierrez said.

When Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown interviewed Bob just before his retirement, Bob reflected on the impact he hoped he had on the community.

"The effect that maybe you've had some impact on people. And you've helped some people," Bob said. "I've met a lot of very good people, and I hope that I've given them all the time they deserve."

Our thoughts and prayers are with Bob's loved ones today as we remember him on his first day as an ABC7 reporter on May 26, 1967. Bob came to Los Angeles during a turbulent time, covering the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Manson murders, and the South L.A. shootout.

Through it all, Bob brought a straightforward style to his reporting that reflected his Midwestern roots.

"Presenting things as I see them, in a straightforward way. I like to tell stories," Bob said during his interview with Marc.

In 1980, he was assigned to the Eyewitness News Inland Empire Bureau, another place that fit like a glove. He said it reminded him of where he grew up, and figures working out of the city added years to his life.

"I prefer it here and I knew that I would be a little more comfortable because I always found the big city intimidating a little bit, it frightened me a little bit. For some reason, I don't know, the small-town kid never got over that," Bob said.

Bob grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio. In 1948, he got his first broadcasting job as a junior announcer at the local radio station WOHI. From there, Bob went to Zanesville, where he got his first TV gig at WHIZ. From musical variety shows to interviews, Bob did it all, including a short stint as "Ditto the Clown" and hosting A.M. Los Angeles with Regis Philbin, where we got the chance to meet three presidents.

Bob touched so many lives, and we invite you to share some of your memories in the comments below!

If you would like to send a sympathy card to Bob's family, you can send it to the Eyewitness News station:

500 Circle Seven Drive
Glendale, CA 91201

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