Andrew Quincy McLean, Jr
Jun 19, 1932 – Sep 13, 2018
Andrew Q. McLean, Jr., a 50+ year resident of Huntsville, Alabama, passed away of natural causes on September 13, 2018. He was at the home of his son, Gary, in the Seattle area, where he was able to enjoy the company of all three of his beloved children during his final days. He was truly a humble hero to all who came to know him. Every child or pet always treasured his calm demeanor and reassuring tone. He led a life full of memorable experiences with his family and friends, and could always be counted on for his warm, quiet presence that would often include a wry observation or phrase that could break up a serious moment at any occasion. Indeed. Some related to cows, flat rocks and rain; another spoke to the utility of physical features on swine.
Andy was born in Atlanta, on June 19, 1932, the son of Andrew Quincy McLean, Sr. and Linnie Eppie Mullis-McLean, who were both raised on farmland in the Alma and Vidalia, Georgia area, where he visited often as a child. His Father worked for decades as a Foreman with the U.S. Railway Mail Service, which required him to be away for weeks at a time on railroad journeys throughout Georgia and points beyond. That is how Andy developed his deep passion for trains of all kinds, first manifested in the “wallpaper” he pasted on the walls of his bedroom in their family home in Smyrna – comprised of magazine photos of trains and railroad workers at destinations and venues throughout the USA – if he couldn’t travel with his dad, then he wanted to study all about where he’d been. Shortly before the home was demolished as part of the new Smyrna City Hall project, his children scraped a collection of faded train photos from his childhood bedroom and had them framed for display in his home, where they proudly hang to this day. He shared his love of trains with his kids, building large and highly technical displays and tracks that pulled out from beneath the bed or dropped down from the garage wall. He enjoyed model railroads as an adult, and was an active member of the Redstone Model Railroad Club, running trains with friends, enjoying club dinners, and especially field trips to see long trains, tunnels, old bridges and the like, throughout the Tennessee Valley region.
He graduated at a young age from Smyrna High School and enrolled at Georgia Tech, where he studied engineering for about two years. His education was interrupted by his enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, where he served from 1950-1953, mostly working as a radio-officer on military flights involved in the rapid construction and development of Thule Air Base in the north of Greenland – a place he said is only memorable because it was half-way between Washington and Moscow at a time when the Cold War started to brew. His missions and assignments were never the subject of great stories with his family, until he entered older age, when he finally shared accounts of polar bears walking outside the windows of his barracks; a plane crash that had to ditch into the sea near Shannon, Ireland, where he was the only survivor; and experiences with native residents living in the Arctic region.
After his honorable discharge from the Air Force in 1953, he continued his education, graduating from the University of Georgia, in the mid-50s. Immediately thereafter, he started his lengthy and distinguished career path as a devoted public servant, working for the U.S. Army as a civilian auditor and contract specialist responsible for reviewing budgets and developing specifications for missiles and weapon systems from the 1950s through the 1980s, including the nation’s first large ICBM project (Pershing), Redstone,
Minuteman, Patriot, the Safeguard anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system, and the Roland surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, until his retirement from the U.S. Army Missile Command in 1987. During his tenure with the Missile Command, he earned an MBA from Alabama A&M in 1974.
In the late 1950s, he met the love of his life, Nora Jean Chitwood, while they were working in Orlando with the Martin Company. They married in 1959, and remained so until Nora passed away in 1991. His kids could have been forgiven if they never knew their given names, because Andy always had a pet name for those he loved, Terry was “Son”; Gary was “Race Horse”; and Valerie was always, always his “Angel Baby.” Andy and his family hold special memories and about their years as part of the Sherwood Baptist Church congregation in the late 60s through the 70s.
Andy is survived by all three of his children, Terry (Kathy); Gary; and Valerie (Bruce); his beloved grandchildren, Stephanie, Andrew, Breck, and Roger; his sister, Becky McLean; cherished sister-in-law, Ida Faye “Woodie” Wheelhouse; many nieces and nephews; his Redstone train club buddies; and wonderful neighbors, especially Wanda and Mort Combs. Both of his parents, his wife, and his older sister, Betty McLean-Moran, precede him in death.
A private celebration of Andy’s life will be scheduled sometime this Fall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Redstone Model Railroad Club, P.O. Box 8206, Huntsville, AL 35808. Online condolences and special memories about Andy may be shared at www.bonneywatson.com
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