The News Photo/Pearl Cantrell
U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (right) thanks Bob McDonald for his contributions to historical preservation and service to the people of Henderson County with a Congressional Resolution during the Memorial Day 2013 dedication of the Veterans Memorial at the Athens Cemetery. McDonald was the moving force behind the cemetery memorial, as well as the Memorial Wall at the East Texas Arboretum. McDonald died last week.
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff
ATHENS–Though relatively few know his name, Bob McDonald leaves a legacy which will impact visitors and Henderson County residents alike for many, many years to come.
The kiosk he designed to assist those looking for the gravesites of relatives and loved ones at the Athens Cemetery is invaluable.
His planning and direction of the Veterans Memorial, both at the cemetery and the East Texas Arboretum stands as a testament to sacrifice and service, of which McDonald himself participated in during the Korean War.
“The work of his hands and heart are seen everywhere you look,” East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society executive director Teresa Glasgow said.
He also served on the board of Trinity Valley Community College, the Athens Historical Preservation, Inc., Keep Athens Beautiful and a handful of other civic committees.
A public celebration of his life is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 17 at the Athens Cemetery.
“We are going to miss him in a lot of ways,” co-volunteer and businessman Steve Grant said of his passing.
“It wasn’t just his wisdom and knowledge, he had a heart of gold,” Grant explained. “He wanted to make things better in everything he did. No job was too big or too small; he put a lot of thought into everything he did.”
McDonald succumbed to cancer at the age of 86. He was born Jan. 24, 1929 and died Feb. 27, 2015.
Glasgow pointed to the 20 hours a week he consistently invested at the East Texas Arboretum. He likely put in similar hours at the cemetery on its maintenance and seeing the many improvements over the past 15 years.
At the dedication of the Veterans Memorial Wall at the cemetery on Memorial Day, 2013, state and national elected officials presented resolutions passed by Congress and the State House, citing his service to better the Athens community through historical preservation.
One of the last projects he designed and directed was the construction of the cemetery’s columbarium.
His love for life, the outdoors and veterans grew from his own military service with the storied 2nd Armored Division as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army, during the Korean War.
His practical, logical thinking was groomed by Texas A&M University as a mechanical engineer, who went on to design and build oil, gas and chemical processing plants and offshore structures.
He retired in 1988, and he and wife Leta returned to their hometown of Athens to live on land belonging to the McDonalds for 150 years. The couple reared two sons: Glenn and Mark.
After a brief respite, his second career began, as he poured his energies, heart and mind into his interests as a volunteer.
A matching grant of up to $50,000 has been set aside to form an endowment in Bob McDonald’s name for the East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society. To donate go to easttexasarboretum.org/support.