Robert R. McCallen, Jr., 88

Robert R. McCallen, Jr. 88, of Wabash, long time resident, local businessman and former Mayor of the City of Wabash, died at 4:47 pm Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, at St. Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis. 

He was born Nov. 15, 1926, in Effingham, Illinois to Ray Robert and Fairy (Byers) McCallen.

He is survived by his wife, Peggy V. McCallen of Wabash, 5 children, Peggy (Alan) Grossnickle, Page (Shane) Himes, Bryan (Sylvia) McCallen, Paula McCallen, and Robert (Chris) McCallen III; 13 grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; his sister Rachel (Thomas) Hallam and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, and two brothers, Harold McCallen, and Dr. Richard McCallen.

His incredible spirit will long live on through all of them and through so many others his life touched.  His life's mission was to instill in his family a "can do" spirit.  He was greatly shaped by the events of his early life growing up during the Great Depression to wonderful parents and his early service in the Navy, where he enlisted in 1944, at the age of 17, following his graduation from Effingham High School. His mother had to sign his enlistment because of his age.

Bob appreciated the importance of an education. Following his honorable discharge from the Navy, where he served in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of operation, he immediately enrolled at Eastern Illinois University.  He then later transferred to Indiana State University where he received his undergraduate degree in 1950 and his Master of Science Degree in 1951. However, and most important to Bob during this time was he met and married Peggy VanBorssum on June 20, 1948 in Terre Haute. They were married 67 years.

In school, Bob's interests were in speech and hearing therapy. Bob was a charter member and first Financial Secretary of the Wabash County United Fund.  Upon graduation he began as Director of Camp Star By-the-Sea a summer camp for crippled children in Springfield, Ill., where he taught partially deaf children.  He then taught speech and hearing therapy in the Hartsville, S.C., public school systems. While teaching he organized and operated a speech therapy clinic for Cerebral Palsy Children at the Florence Medical Center, Florence, S.C., where he also wrote a newspaper column on the topic of speech and hearing therapy.  He also was the Assistant Director of the Crippled Children’s Society for the State of South Carolina.

Bob then moved, along with wife and two children, to Bloomington, to attend law school.  He graduated in 1956 with his J.D. and was asked to move to Wabash at the behest of then Mayor Bob Mitten. Thereafter, Bob continued to practice law.  However, his unique drive to always look for new opportunities led him to many other activities. Since coming to Wabash in 1956, he was city attorney under two administrations, attorney for town boards in Roann, Lagro and Somerset, and School Board Attorney for the Wabash City Schools where he championed the idea of consolidation back then. In areas somewhat connected to but also beyond the practice of law, he developed  numerous multi-family housing units across the Midwest (including Senior Town in Wabash) and also in the states of South Carolina and Maryland.  He co-owned and developed condominiums along the shores of Lake Erie, Ohio.  He created Friendly Nursing Home in Wabash, which was later acquired by Miller’s Merry Manor. He developed and owned the Wabash Village Shopping Center and he also developed and owned the Hotel Lafontaine in downtown Huntington.

Bob loved life.  Bob loved challenges.  As mayor he relocated City Hall to its present location, and he created a blue ribbon commission to investigate a YMCA facility in Wabash.  Look how well that turned out.  He acquired the old Sears Building which now houses the Wabash County Historical Museum. Look how well that turned out. 

He, along with Peggy, began a Banner program for the youth of Wabash and adjoining counties in conjunction with the Honeywell Education Outreach Center. He gave his time, talents and wisdom to the Honeywell House to ensure its status as a national treasure.

However, much of what was given by Bob (along with Peggy - the two were inseparable), remains unknown. Long before "Pay it Forward" became a household word, Bob and Peggy were doing just that - anonymously. Along the way they encouraged their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to do so as well. Bob has been recognized for achievements on a broader level with two Sagamore of the Wabash Awards and he was named by Gov. Evan Bayh to serve on the first Hoosier Lottery Commission. Bob's family and friends will miss greatly his daily words of wisdom, wit, drive, his indomitable spirit and his kind, kind heart. He was truly one of the members of our Greatest Generation. To his grandkids, he will always be remembered as "Grandpa Donuts."

Funeral services will be 2pm Sunday, September 13, 2015, at the Wabash Friends Church, 3563 S. St. Rd. 13, Wabash with David Phillips and Aaron Story officiating.  Friends may call 2-6 p.m. Saturday at Grandstaff-Hentgen Funeral Service, 1241 Manchester Ave., Wabash, and one hour prior to the service Sunday at the church.  Inurnment will be in Falls Cemetery, Wabash at a later date.

The preferred memorial is the Honeywell Foundation Banner Contest.

The memorial guest book for Robert may be signed at


Posted on 2015 Sep 10