Singing what many vocalists have described as a melodic gauntlet before an audience of thousands didn’t cause a note of nervousness in Robert McClintock. This World War II veteran has faced his share of high-pressure situations, like flying combat missions over Italy and singing at Carnegie Hall. Turns out, Robert’s singing of the National Anthem on Nov. 8, before the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lighting game, was actually the second time he’s performed in front of a sell-out crowd at Amalie Arena.
Besides, there’s another historic moment approaching this Brookdale Lake Seminole Square resident. Robert turns 100 on Nov. 12. It also happens to be one day after the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I.
“It didn’t bother me,” he said. “I was prepared for it mentally and emotionally. I’m accustomed to being in front of large groups of people. I’ve done this before, when I was 98.”
Robert, a retired U.S. Army Corps lieutenant, joined USAF Technical Sergeant Sonya Bryson to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Military Appreciation Night. (Click link to watch the performance.) The pair also sang together in 2016. They were asked to come and be honored as military veterans, while showcasing their vocal talent.
“I really am humbled because I have to represent all those veterans who have come and gone,” Robert said. “We have had so many that have died in combat. I’m representing them, so that others can remember. I take that responsibility very seriously.”
After graduating from Taylor University, a small college in Indiana, he joined the Army in 1941. He became a commissioned pilot at age 23 and flew 86 combat missions over Italy and North Africa. Many of his missions consisted of providing front-line support to advancing ground troops.
“They’d call us in the take out of the enemy,” he said. “We’d scrap out railroads, bridges and roads, anything to cause problems for the Germans.”
Robert also instructed British pilots on how to fly the P-51 Mustang and A-36 Apache, often called the Invader. After the war, Robert, the son of a minister, decided he wanted to be a choir director. He attended the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey and eventually earned a master’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Robert and his wife, Betty, settled in an Alabama town where they spent the next 30 years.
“We were a team,” he said. “Betty was an organist, and I was the choir director. She couldn’t sing and I couldn’t play the organ so it worked out.”
The couple moved into Brookdale Lake Seminole Square, becoming one of the community’s first residents in March of 1990. Betty passed away in 2008 at the age of 88. He said he’s still amazed by the luxurious accommodations of the community, which features an indoor pool and spa, billiards room and art studio. The McClintocks began leading vespers services at the community in 1991.
“Can you believe I’ve only missed three services in 27 years,” said Robert.
A humble man, he said he doesn’t need a party or special celebration for his 100th birthday. He’s just happy to be among friends.