Saturday, April 2, 2011


In Memoriam
Robert Star "Robb" McClary
1948 - 2010

A couple of years ago I was talking to my friend Julie from Norfolk, Ne. We share a common political vision, making us Democrats. In the midst of that conversation I remarked that I missed the real Republicans. Julie was stunned and said "but I thought you were a Democrat!"

It is difficult to briefly mark the transformation of the GOP over the past four decades. As a young man I went to college in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Springfield, Mo., where being Baptist or Assembly of God was as common as being a Republican. I didn't fit into any of the above categories. Yet from the formerly Southwest, now Missouri State, formerly College, now University I rose in the ranks of College Democrats to two distinctive offices. I was the State Chairman of the College Democrats of Missouri and the State Auditor for the Missouri Intercollegiate Student Legislature (MISL).

Today's recollection is not to imply that political discourse forty some years ago was more polite and cordial. Those were rough and raucous times. The radical fringe of politics was fraying on the left. Today the fabric of society is under threat from the radicalization of the right.

There was a difference, at least among my peer group of student Republicans and Democrats. We decidedly didn't dislike one another. We were friends. When the game was on we stood our ground, made our arguments, and each side fought the good fight. Leaving the political arena we left animosity and discord behind. After all politics was a vehicle to shape and inform our world. Politics was not an all consuming cancer devouring our lives and civility in the process. Realistically we spent more together in our college lives other than those few moments when we sparred on the training ground. Robb McClary and I briefly lived in the same dormitory, a place called Freudenberger.

Robb was a College Young Republican, he was active in MISL. The year that Robb became the Governor of MISL was when I was elected Auditor. The group was historically dominated by College Republicans, but in the fairness of the age the minority party was assured one statewide official. It was always Auditor.

I remember Robb McClary as a prototypical College Republican. He was a good guy, a damn nice guy, not haughty or arrogant, but approachable and friendly. Robb McClary was the kind of guy you knew you could rely on as a friend. Now that is not to say that he and I were bosom buddies and hung out all the time. But we had our moments.

Occasionally Robb and I would head off with Professor Gordon Friedman, of the Political Science Department, to a little dive adjacent to the rail tracks north of College Street in Springfield called the Depot Inn. We'd share a pitcher or two beer and have a pizza. Robb and Gordon would always get into a friendly tiff over the last slice. Those were Robb McClary's most acrimonious moments. He was generally affable and more than willing to work problems out rather than engage in bombastic belittlement barrages.

My mind's eye still remembers the last time I saw Robb McClary. He was bounding out of Freudenberger, a tennis sweater draped on his shoulders, and as he rushed by he was saying goodbye. He was heading back home, then on to grad school. By way of the grapevine I heard he had gone into the business of city management. The last time I knew someone said he was in Bullhead City, Az.

Today I have a fourteen year old grandson who is a freshman honor student in high school. While laundering his dress shirt, the one he wears for forensics, I noticed the beginning of a stain at the collar and cuffs. I grabbed some liquid detergent and applied it to the affected areas. Later on I talked to him about being mindful of these things. Then I paused to think about when I learned this little "Hint from Heloise."

Seems Heloise didn't have anything to do with it. I learned Robb's remedy to "ring around the collar." One summer Robb and I were on the same floor of the dormitory across the street, Blair-Shannon, (Freudenberger didn't host students during the summer term). As I was speeding down the hall to go down the stairs I caught a glimpse of Robb McClary in one of the utility rooms on the floor. I hit the brakes, backed up, and said "Hey what are you doing?" There stood Robb McClary with a bottle of dish detergent applying soap to his collars and cuffs. He explained the drill, which I have copied for decades.

My grandson has his first case of ring around the collar and that made me pause and think about an old college friend. The world is a little less friendly with the passing of Robb McClary. He was a good person, a good friend, a good adversary, and by all means he was a good Republican.

Robb McClary passed away April 13, 2010. He is missed.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Very nice! He was a good guy and is missed.

  3. As I recall, Mary's comment was removed because it contained information that may have compromised her privacy. On some issues I remain steadfastly conservative, and not disclosing another's private information is one of those issues. As I recall the message was also personal to me.