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Obituary of Robert H. McRoberts Jr.: Civic leader, attorney for Bryan Cave

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 12, 2009 - A memorial service for Robert H. McRoberts Jr., who worked side by side for many years with his father and namesake at the law firm of Bryan, Cave, McPheeters & McRoberts (now Bryan Cave), will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton.

Mr. McRoberts died Monday (Feb. 9) of heart failure at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis. He was 84.

In 1951, Mr. McRoberts joined his father's well-established but small law firm of fewer than a dozen attorneys, working primarily in estates and trusts. In 1991, with Bryan Cave well on its way to becoming one of the largest law firms in the world, Mr. McRoberts retired.

But after 40 years as an attorney, Mr. McRoberts' retirement didn't quite take.

"My father had always said he wanted to practice law for 50 years," said Laura Krutewicz, Mr. McRoberts' oldest daughter. "So, he went back to work at a smaller law firm."

Mr. McRoberts fulfilled his 50-year work goal by becoming of counsel to the firm of Weier, Hockensmith & Sherby, P.C., a firm about the size that Bryan, Cave, McPheeters & McRoberts had been when he started. He retired for good in 2001.

In his second retirement, Mr. McRoberts, who had enjoyed golf and tennis in his younger years, spent more time reading ("as a child, I remember he was always reading," Krutewicz said), often to his grandchildren, and more time listening to the big-band-era jazz that had shaped his musical tastes. He particularly liked the music of Count Basie.

Mr. McRoberts was, himself, a bit of a musician. "He played a little piano and he played drums a little bit, for fun," Krutewicz said. "He never thought himself very good."

Apparently, the U.S. Navy disagreed, as he played drums in the Navy band.

Mr. McRoberts, who was born and raised in St. Louis, joined the Navy after graduating from St. Louis Country Day School in 1942. He served aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Monterey during World War II and was present at the Japanese surrender to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo Bay.

Following the war, Mr. Roberts enrolled in Washington University, where he earned an undergraduate degree and a law degree. Around the time of his graduation from law school, he met Annette Aitken, whom he married a year later. She said that she fell in love with her husband-to-be because of his integrity, honesty and loyalty, qualities he maintained during 56 years of marriage.

"My father made and kept friends for a lifetime because he was a patient and kind person," Krutewicz said. "No matter who it was, even opposing counsel, people would come up and want to talk with him.

"He was also humble and modest. I'm just learning about some of the things he did."

Among those "things' were giving to many charitable organizations and serving on boards for such institutions as Edgewood Children's Center, St. Louis Children's Hospital, St. Louis City Bank and the St. Louis Center for Hearing and Speech.

Mr. McRoberts was preceded in death by his parents, Robert H. McRoberts and Helen Banister McRoberts.

He is survived by his wife, Annette Aitken McRoberts; his son, Robert H. McRoberts III, (Courtney) of Waterloo, Ill.; daughters Laura Krutewicz (Douglas) of St. Louis; Molly McRoberts of Portland, Ore.; Angie Sant (Web) of St. Louis, and a son John McRoberts (Meegan) of Birmingham, Mich. He is also survived by his seven grandchildren: Whitney and Robert IV, Andrew and Molly, Mac, Lyda and Josephine, and one great-grandchild, Natalie. In addition, he is survived by two sisters, Joyce East (Cal) of Charleston, S.C. and Eve Spencer (the late Stan) of St. Charles.

The Church of St. Michael and St. George, where the memorial service will be held, is at 6345 Wydown (at Ellenwood) in Clayton. The family will receive friends in the Great Hall following the service. Interment at Bellerive Cemetery will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated to Outreach Ministries at the Church of St. Michael and St. George (www.csmsg.org), or to Edgewood Children's Center, 330 North Gore, St. Louis, Mo. 63119 (www.eccstl.org ), or to the charity of one's choice.

Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriter for AfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service.

Gloria S. Ross is the head of Okara Communications and AfterWords, an obituary-writing and design service.