WENDELL, N.C. — George Donald “Don” Robertson died on Aug. 20, 2023, at age 84 at WakeMed in Raleigh after a short illness.
His family misses him dearly but is confident that Don has now received his heavenly reward. Don was a loving husband, father and grandfather, as well as a machinist, clock repairer and all-around fixer. But he was first and foremost a child of God.
Don was born in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 6, 1939, to Arthur and Evelyn (Leach) Robertson. He grew up in Cheverly, Maryland, and graduated from Bladensburg High School in 1957. He enjoyed fixing up old jalopies with his older brother, Bill.
After working for a while, “Robbie” (as he was known to friends in his youth), joined the U.S. Navy in 1962, working on airplanes in Washington. He marched in President John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession in 1963. Don left active service in 1965 and stayed in the reserves for two more years. During that time he met Mary Jane White. Their first date occurred at a Volkswagen Club meeting (they both owned Beetles). They married in June 1967 in Alexandria, Virginia, and had their only child, Gary, in 1969.
Don spent most of his working career at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, where as a model maker he often fashioned parts for NASA-related projects heading into space.
He left NRL after more than 30 years in 2002. Don and MJ moved shortly thereafter to Williamsburg, Virginia. They came to Wendell in 2016 to be closer to Gary and his family, including their grandchildren, who knew him as Pop Pop.
Don’s lasting legacy was one of living out his faith. At First Assembly of God in Alexandria, he was a tireless worker in the school bus ministry, transporting children and adults on Sundays to come to church and hear the Christian gospel. He also spent many Saturdays working on the bus engines at First Assembly and later Word of Life Church in Springfield, Virginia, so they could run just a little bit longer.
In Williamsburg, he attended Williamsburg Community Chapel and volunteered at Grove Christian Outreach Ministry. According to Grove’s former director, if Don couldn’t repair something at the ministry, then it surely wasn’t worth keeping. While in Wendell, he attended Cross Assembly in Raleigh.
Among hobbies, his greatest passion was collecting and repairing time pieces for himself, family, friends, and even strangers who knew of his skill. He loved to locate dilapidated clocks in antique shops and bring them back to life. Pop Pop passed on some of that know-how to his grandsons. These works of art will be enjoyed by generations to come.
We will remember him fondly for his “Dad” humor; his willingness to help Gary deliver The Washington Post from the old station wagon on cold Sunday mornings; his summer workshop projects with the grandkids and visits to the go-kart track in Williamsburg; his strong, quiet faith, marked by daily devotionals; and his unfailing love for MJ and his family.
Survivors include MJ, his wife of 56 years; their son, Gary (Janet) of Cary; and three grandchildren, Carly (Josh) Hale of Chapel Hill; Grant Robertson of New Bern; and Rusty Robertson (Emily) of Cary. Don was preceded in death by his parents and brother Bill.
The family will hold a private burial service at Eastern Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Goldsboro. A public celebration-of-life service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, August 25, at Cross Assembly on Yonkers Road in Raleigh.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Cross Assembly, 2660 Yonkers Rd., Raleigh, N.C., 27604, Attention: Bethlehem Project.
The family thanks the caring staff at Wake Med’s rehab, cardiology and intensive care units.
Strickland Funeral Home & Crematory in Wendell is handling arrangements.