Longtime law enforcement professional dies

Robbie Scattini was loyal to friends, loving to his family, caring to strangers and forever devoted to his community. Robert David Scattini passed away on Aug. 4, 2019 at age 80. Born on Feb. 21, 1939 in San Jose, Robbie grew up alongside four brothers and four sisters in Castroville, Salinas and San Juan Bautista. His father was a cowboy, while Robbie’s early affinity for the ranching lifestyle – and a cowboy mentality – never waned. Through his decades of dedicated public service, Robbie’s positive impact on the citizens of San Benito County will be felt for generations to come.

After graduating from San Benito High School in 1958, Robbie joined the U.S. Army in 1959 before accepting his first of several roles in 1961 – in a distinguished law enforcement career – as a San Benito County Sheriff’s deputy. Following four years with the local sheriff’s department, he entered the California Highway Patrol Academy in Sacramento along with his younger brother, Richie. At the Gilroy CHP office, which oversaw San Benito County, Robbie flourished and solidified his local reputation as an officer who was compassionate and never hesitated to help others. While law enforcement was in his blood, he also had a soft spot for the many motorists he pulled over while working for the CHP and, more often than not, he would issue a warning rather than an expensive ticket. As a twist to his CHP career, Robbie and his brother Richie were the first siblings to graduate together from the CHP academy and worked many graveyard shifts together.

Robbie told many stories about his CHP tenure over the years. He often worked graveyard shifts on the Pacheco Pass beat and encountered his share of drunk or erratic drivers. While recounting his CHP days in an interview with the Hollister Free Lance in December 2003, he recalled an old dispatch report of someone driving in reverse on Pacheco Pass and his own disbelief at the time until he and his partner caught up with the motorist. “The only gear he had was reverse,” Scattini recounted for the local newspaper. “He said he drove all the way from Los Banos in reverse.”

As a law enforcement professional, Robbie was an undeniable hero and saved lives. On one such occasion in the mid-1970s while he was with the CHP, a man had a heart attack and stopped breathing. Robbie administered CPR and revived him, something for which then-President Gerald Ford recognized Scattini. From that point on, for many years, the survivor’s family brought food to the Scattini home during the holidays. It was just one example of appreciation, among many, which locals showed Robbie for his compassion and endearing nature.

He was with the CHP from 1966-1983. In 1982, Robbie ran for sheriff and defeated the heavily favored undersheriff at the time, Leonard Gomes, by nearly 400 votes. His four-year term as sheriff started in 1983. Robbie ran for reelection but lost by a mere seven votes to eventual Sheriff Harvey Nyland.

It may have seemed like Robbie peaked in local politics at the time, but it was just the beginning. Shortly after his defeat in the sheriff’s race, Robbie became the county constable. The elected job eventually merged with the position of county marshal, and Robbie was reelected numerous times. Robbie, as he did throughout the course of his career and life, reinvented himself as the marshal. It was the perfect job for Robbie because he could do some of the things he did best – law enforcement, helping people in need, and interacting with the public. As part of his duties as the marshal, Robbie was required to serve papers or legal documents on individuals throughout the county. Even when serving papers in a hostile situation (divorce, lawsuit, etc), he always parted with the aggrieved party with a smile and a handshake and usually a new friendship. That’s the type of person Robbie was.

He was respected throughout the county and certainly on Hollister’s west side. District 2 residents elected him as a Hollister City Councilman in 2002. He was also known for his regular security patrols at Calaveras School and the nearby park. As a councilman in two separate four-year terms, Robbie gained a reputation for closely watching over taxpayers’ money and brought a practical approach to local government. It goes without saying: Robbie shook up the establishment as a councilman. Aside from taking on a key role in straightening out Hollister’s troubled finances, another signature accomplishment was helping to revive the Hollister Motorcycle Rally alongside Ignacio Velazquez, a good friend and the current Hollister mayor.

There wasn’t a particular role that overwhelmingly defined Robbie’s professional life. Robbie was a renaissance man, to say the least. He was a Gavilan College criminology instructor. He taught traffic school. He was on the Hollister Airport Advisory Commission for over two decades. He was a San Benito County Planning Commissioner. He was a board member for the San Benito Health Foundation. He was involved in many local nonprofit organizations such as the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce, the Elk’s Club, the Hollister Airmen’s Association, the Booster Club, the 200 pound club, the Jolly Boys and Pet Friends of Hollister, to name just a few. Robbie was also an animal lover having owned various cats, dogs, birds and fish over the years. He also owned and flew planes and owned dozens of motorcycles over the years. He rode bulls in his youth and never missed the San Benito County Horse Show & Rodeo. He also had an affinity for all things country music. Mid-career, he attended night school to earn a bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State while raising a new family and working full time.

Perhaps his biggest accomplishment, meanwhile, wasn’t an accolade, or heroism, or an election or any recognition. It was merely being Robbie – someone with a larger-than-life personality who cared deeply for his family, friends and his beloved community.

Robbie married his first wife Catherine Scattini in 1964. They divorced 10 years later but remained the very best of friends until his passing. Known as a great cook, Catherine regularly prepared meals for Robbie over the years despite their separation. Holidays and birthdays were always spent together and always included some good-natured ribbing and lots of laughs, usually at Robbie’s expense. He married Lynn Scattini in 1991 and spent his final 28 years as a loving husband. Catherine and Robbie raised two sons, Vince Pryor and Greg Scattini, both of whom attested they had a great, loving and supportive father who was always there in good times and bad. He was a proud stepfather to Cammy Kuhns-Weber. Robbie was predeceased by siblings Alfred, Albert and Dee Dee. He is survived by siblings Elva, Susie, Richard, Gracie and Vernon. He is also survived by grandkids Vincent, Lacey and Christopher and their wonderful mother Janine Rodrigues as well as Mackenzie and Giada and his loving daughter-in-law Robin Scattini. He is also survived by step-grandchildren Caitlin, Jaden and Jerret and step great-granddaughter, Georgia as well as numerous nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his beloved Yorkie, Dakota.

Devotion drew people to Robbie, who may have had more friends and known more people than anyone in San Benito County. His extensive friendships and acquaintances weren’t limited to San Benito County and, in fact, reached far and wide. It wasn’t unusual for family members to run into Robbie’s acquaintances in other parts of the state or even in other parts of the country. If you were a friend of Robbie’s, you were a friend for life. And he had many. There was no shortage of people deceased or living in his inner circle: Local names like Paul Wattis, Leonard Poletti, Fernando Gonzalez, Joe Paul Gonzalez, Reb Monaco, Herman Wrede, Tom Slavich, John Hodges, Dean and Ron Rodrigues, George Kincaid, Danny Carrillo, Tom Breen, Ignacio Velazquez, Kollin Kosmicki, Kenny and Elizabeth Perez, Don Kelley, Robert Rodriguez, Sonny Flores, Jaime De La Cruz, Richard Place, Paul Rovella, Rhonda Brown, Norma Price and countless others.

His friends knew he loved them, and they knew he loved everything about San Benito County. Although he wasn’t born in a county often defined by its multigenerational roots, Robbie was quintessential San Benito County – there’s no denying it – and he made his hometown proud throughout his life.

The family would like to thank the wonderful doctors that worked with Robbie over the last year, especially Dr. Ray Kusamoto, as well as the wonderful staff and caregivers at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, Regional Medical Center in San Jose, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in Salinas and Kindred Hospital in San Leandro.  

A celebration of Robbie’s well lived life will take place on September 8th at 2:00 pm at San Juan Oaks Golf Club and all are invited.  

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