Robert J. Macbeth, 95, longtime VA employee

Macbeth
Macbeth
Posted: September 20, 2013

ROBERT J. Macbeth knew how to put his mathematical skills to good use.

As an elementary-school tutor, he tried to show the kids that math could be fun.

And as an employee of the Veterans Administration, he made sure nobody could work with the data-processing system he set up but him.

At his church, he took it on himself to safeguard and invest the funds entrusted to him as treasurer.

Robert Macbeth, a 30-year employee of the Veterans Administration in Philadelphia, a church and community leader and decorated Army veteran of World War II, died Monday. He was 95 and was living in a nursing home and had lived for many years in East Mount Airy.

Robert drew great satisfaction as a tutor at Martha Washington Elementary School, where he tried to get through to the children that they could enjoy doing math.

"He loved the kids," said his daughter, Marion Macbeth. "He knew how to teach them. He even bought paper and pencils for them so they could do their lessons."

Robert grew up in the segregated South and served in the segregated Army. But he never let either experience dampen his enthusiasm for life.

He was born in Charleston, S.C., to Ulysses and Marion Macbeth. He graduated first in his class from Avery High School for Coloreds, and went on to Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, in Virginia.

He entered the Army in 1943 and served with an aviation engineer outfit in France and Germany. He rose to the rank of master sergeant and received a Bronze Star for meritorious service. He was discharged in September 1945.

Before he left for the military, Robert married Edna Williamson in November 1942. After his discharge, they lived in Richmond, Va., until he was offered a job with the VA in Philadelphia. They moved here in 1951.

Robert worked at the VA for 30 years, and retired in the '70s as director of data processing. The system he developed was a puzzle to his successors, and the VA called Robert back to help train others on its intricacies.

He was sent to Washington, D.C., to discuss the program, and thereafter served as a consultant.

Robert spent more than 20 years on the vestry of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and served the church as treasurer for many years.

He also was active with the Philadelphia chapter of Frontiers International, a worldwide service organization devoted to programs of benefit to communities. He served for a time as treasurer of the national organization.

Among his community activities, Robert was on the board of Center in the Park, a senior community center.

His wife was killed in a car crash in the Poconos in 1990, an accident that also injured him and his daughter. He had to have hip-replacement surgery as a result.

Besides his daughter, he is survived by a brother, John Macbeth, and two grandchildren.

Services: 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 5419 Germantown Ave. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

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