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Advertise on the Tentacle

March 6, 2009

Bob McCardell R.I.P.

John W. Ashbury

(Editor’s Note: A memorial service will be held at 11 A.M. Saturday March 7, at the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ, 15 West Church Street in Frederick. Coffee Club members are asked to gather in front of the church at 10:30 A.M.)


The old saying about looking in the dictionary for a definition of a word and finding a picture of someone instead certainly applies in the case of Robert Clingan McCardell, who died January 26 at 95.


When you go to your dictionary to look up the word “gentleman,” most certainly there will be a picture of him. He defined the word in every aspect of his life, from soda jerk, to sailor, to bank clerk to bank examiner. He never raised his voice in all the years I knew him. His demeanor always reflected his upbringing as a man respectful of others no matter the situation.


Often he remarked that if it were not for the Frederick Coffee Club, his life would have been much shorter. His friendship with the men and women, whether at the Village Restaurant downtown, or at the Frederick Coffee Company at East and Church streets, sparked a smile whenever it was mentioned. He seldom missed – unless it was a doctor’s appointment, hospital stay, or entertaining friends from out of town.


He lived his entire life in the house on Rockwell Terrace where he was born, never having another official address in 95 years. A remarkable accomplishment!


Bob inspired others to be as patient and gentile as he was. It’s hard to imagine Bob squaring off with bank officials when he examined their books. Doubtless he found problems; but he was still the gentleman.


In his later years he had a friend in Norman “Bud” Fogle, who looked after Bob in so many ways it would be impossible to list them all. Bud started out just mowing Bob’s yard. It evolved into even providing some intimate personal care. Surely Bob paid Bud for his labors, but Bud was more than just an employee. He was a friend to the end.


When Bob entered Frederick Memorial for his last stay, Bud and his wife Janet were constantly by his side. Others visited; but when they did, either Bud or Janet was there. Janet had cooked meals for Bob for many years and Bud took them down to Bob every evening.


There are countless stories to be told. One in particular demonstrates the affection others had for Bob.


Karlys Kline, a celebrated Fredericktonian herself, took Bob to dinner on his birthday every year for the last eight of his life. Bob liked The Tasting Room at Church and Market, just a few doors down from his church, The Evangelical Reformed, United Church of Christ.


On one occasion, the people at the next table overheard Ms. Kline toast Bob. The man seated there stood and burst in a marvelous rendition of “Happy Birthday,” which made Bob smile. But he was also embarrassed by the attention it drew to him.


When Ms. Kline asked for the check, the waiter informed her that the people at the next table, who had already left, had taken care of it. Ms. Kline said the waiter told her the “singer had treated us because he was so happy to see someone at Bob’s age enjoying life.”


So you see, even people who aren’t from Frederick observed the kind of man Bob was in even a very short span of time.


I had a personal experience that I will always cherish. I had just completed a piece for Frederick Magazine on McClintock Young, whose inventions had engendered the Ox Fibre Brush Company and made it the success it was in Frederick for nearly a century.


I brought it up at the Coffee Club and was relating some fascinating historical information about Mr. Young. Bob had a quizzical look on his face, and quietly said: “Well, I’ve never heard of him.”


My response was that Mr. Young had died the year Bob was born in 1913 and perhaps that was the reason he had never heard of this inventor. Bob broke into a broad grim and even laughed outloud, something he seldom did, although you knew when he was pleased.


Other members of the Coffee Club have their stories about Bob as well.


Maury Hassett tells what he considers to be the saddest comment he ever heard. Maury and some friends had dinner at the American Legion weekly. Bob was among them, seldom missing.


Maury asked Bob once why he had never married, that he would have been a great husband and father. Bob was silent for a moment, then said: “Well, there was a girl once…” His voice trailed off as he recalled those precious memories.


Former Frederick City Police Lieutenant Tom Chase recalled that “Bob was my grandmother’s dearest friend.” When I joined the Coffee Club I would enjoy talking with Bob about her because he was one of the few who remembered her from the days when he and my grandfather were in banking.” Sadly Tom’s grandmother was murdered, a crime that remains unsolved.


And former Frederick Mayor Ron Young wrote in an email that Bob “quietly contributed and helped others without seeking recognition. He epitomized a positive attitude and an appreciation for friends and life.”


Recently I had occasion to take a family member to Frederick Memorial’s emergency room. While the examination was underway, I was asked to step out of the cubicle. It was then that I noticed a plaque on the wall; it recognized that this area of the emergency room had been donated by Robert C. McCardell in memory of the McCardell family. He had never mentioned the gift to anyone. That was his way.


He and his brother also established a scholarship fund at the Community Foundation for students studying at Hood College and Washington & Lee University, his alma mater.


So, a gentleman has passed from our midst, the likes of which may never be seen again. Bob McCardell embodied all that was good in his generation. He brought to life the ideals that we all strive for. He lived a life to be emulated. He died with dignity.


Rest In Peace, Robert C. “Bob” McCardell. You are that one shining example of a life well lived. You will be missed.



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