MAHOMET — Robert W. McCleary, 93, formerly of Tolono, departed this earth at 1:40 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2019, at The Glenwood Assisted Living of Mahomet, surrounded by those he loved and those who loved him.
He is survived by his brother, Bill (Moneta) of Galesville; and five children, Nancy Lambert of Homer, Robert C. (Dee Dee) of Galconda, Deborah Jeanne Ward (Robert) of Mahomet, David Philip (Carol) of Tolono and Michael William of Dearborn, Mich.. Also surviving are seven grandchildren, Candis Rose McCleary, Robert Wayne McCleary II, Quint Allen Summers, Kristopher Wayne Summers, David Philip McCleary Jr., Darren Michael McCleary and Meghan Elizabeth Drawz. Robert is also survived by six great-grandchildren, Sean Michael Summers, Olivia Bridget McCleary, Margaret Ruth McCleary, Finnian Christopher McCleary, Kristopher Wayne Summers, Jr., and Aleela Jane Summers.
He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Aleela, and seven siblings.
He was born Robert Wayne McCleary on March 26, 1926, in a farmhouse in rural Bellflower, the second son and sixth surviving child (of eight) of Philip and Nellie Dugan McCleary. Robert spent his formative years in the Piatt County farming community of Blue Ridge. He and his brothers and sisters helped work the family farm doing what was needed to keep food on the table and the wolves away from the door. Initially using horsepower to farm (Major and Maude being his well-remembered team), Robert eventually got (nearly) exclusive use of an old John Deere tractor, which started his lifelong love of the green and yellow.
Robert was still working on the family farm in 1948 when two friends from Mansfield set him up on a blind date with the new school teacher in town. Thus, Robert met Aleela Mingee, and thus began a loving relationship, friendship and partnership of 62+ years. Even though Aleela went ahead in 2011, he still kept her close in his heart from then until now.
The year 1948 also saw a draft notice, and Robert was inducted into the U.S. Army. Utilizing a brief leave while transferring between duty stations, Robert married Aleela in the Tolono Presbyterian Church on May 17, 1949. A highlight of these early years was when Aleela travelled to Austin, Texas, to visit Robert at his duty station at Bergstrom AFB. Many memories and tall tales resulted from this visit, and this kindled their love of sharing “exotic” locales together.
Robert was mustered out of active duty in December 1949 only to be reactivated when war broke out on the Korean Penisula in June 1950. He served in Korea with the U.S. Army’s IXth Corps field artillery during portions of 1950 and 1951, until having fufilled his military commitment. He was always proud of his Korean service and that he had honorably served his country when called upon. Robert was a lifetime member of the VFW and was active in Savoy’s American Legion Post 1492 until he was no longer able.
After returning home from Korea, Robert worked at farming, running a grain elevator, hauling coal and various other jobs, until he received a break and was hired into the University of Illinois’ Operations and Maintenance Department as a laborer. There he thrived, eventually becoming foreman of the labor shop. He retired from the university in 1987 with 30 years of credited service.
Robert’s service to the community extended to being a Tolono village trustee for multiple years in the early to mid-1970s. Faith was also a large part of his life, and he was a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church of Tolono. He was a church elder, active with the church’s Mariner group and enjoyed helping out wherever he could, be it cooking for a pancake breakfast or pouring concrete to fix the church’s sidewalks.
Retirement led to a reacquaintance with Robert’s first love of farming. He enjoyed helping local farmers with the planting and the harvest. In his estimation, any day spent on a tractor was a good day.
In the times between planting and harvesting, Robert and Aleela endulged their passion for travel. They visited all 50 states and their capitals, nearly every Canadian province (the far north excepted) and their provincial capitals, all of the presidential libraries through Bill Clinton, parts of Mexico and most of western Europe. They loved delving into local historical sights and reveled in all of the beauty around them, both natural and man made. Many were their fond memories of these trips.
Visitation was from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West in Savoy. Funeral services were at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 15, at Morgan Memorial Home, with Pastor Jason Schiller presiding. Graveside services with military rites will follow at Grandview Memorial Gardens in Champaign.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, the family requests that donations be made to the Disabled American Veteran’s charity to help our wounded warriors.
Condolences may be made at www.morganmemorialhome.com.