Arlington’s Maywood neighborhood lost its foremost historian last month.
Robert McAtee, the community’s oldest resident, died Aug. 10 at the age of 100. A colorful local figure, “Mac” was a captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was known for his love of collectables, Scottish history and of telling tales of “old Arlington.”
Members of Maywood’s neighborhood listserv were informed of McAtee’s passing last week. The email included an obituary, written by Maywood resident Peter Harnik.
The obit is reprinted, with permission, below.
Robert McAtee, the oldest resident of Arlington’s Maywood neighborhood, died on Sunday, August 10. He was just two months shy of 101 and had lived in the same house for 98 years.
Universally known as “Mac,” Mr. McAtee was an institution in the county, attending community meetings and high school reunions in the kilt of his Scottish kinsmen and regaling all listeners with scrupulously accurate stories of old Arlington. An inveterate collector, Mac is reported to have had more than 20,000 license plates and 1,000 books of Scottish history along with cameras, buttons, stamps, coins, fossils, and much more.
He attended Cherrydale Elementary School (since demolished) and enjoyed telling stories of clambering along (and under) the trestle of the old Washington and Old Dominion Railroad. He also attended Washington-Lee High School, where he was a proud member of the Cadet Corps. After graduation in 1932, he began his working life at the Government Printing Office, where he worked until being drafted into the Army of the US in the fall of 1941. Mac was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA where he graduated with Class 13. He served for three years and was honorably discharged as a Captain. To further contribute to the war effort, Mac subsequently volunteered for the US Maritime Service.
At the conclusion of World War II, Mac returned to Maywood. He attended Columbia Tech where he studied electrical engineering. He worked for General Electric for a short time until he began managing a trailer rental lot on Lee Highway. In 1955 he purchased a trailer rental business at Seven Corners which he operated for over 45 years.
Mac had one sister but was never married and leaves no survivors. In recent years he was cared for by his long-time friend Robert Beck, Katherine Skerl, and care-givers Denora, Amy, and Marina.
In addition to good health, he also had a prodigious memory. Almost until the end he could rattle off the names of every family member in virtually every house in Maywood in the 1930s. He delighted showing visitors his collection of 24 letters and postcards – each with a different address – that had arrived at his house. The house didn’t change, but over the years its street name, city name, post office, zip code and other identifiers did.
Mac also reported that his family was the first in the neighborhood to install indoor plumbing. He told of the regular deliveries of milk, eggs, coal and blocks of ice, and he pointed out the location of small shops and the kindergarten within what is now the residential neighborhood.
He was perhaps best known in the neighborhood for annually renewing his automobile’s license plate with his updated age, usually entwining Roman numerals with his initials. Even though he wasn’t able to drive at the end, he kept his car, and at his death his plate spelled simply “RBM 100″.
Mr. McAtee took part in many recorded remembrances and also bequeathed much of his historically significant collection to the Virginia Room of the Arlington Library.
A memorial service will be held in the Fall.
After the jump: McAtee’s memories of Arlington in the first half of the 20th century, reprinted with permission. (more…)
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Flickr pool photo by Lifeinthedistrict