100 years: World War II veteran celebrates a century of life and service to his country

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 2, 2017

100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson was in office, the United States entered World War I, the first Pulitzer prizes were awarded, and Pearl River County opens its new courthouse.

But 1917 was also the year Robert E. Lee was born, not the Confederate general, but an Army man who now resides in Pearl River County.

Lee celebrated his 100th birthday with friends and family at Union Baptist Church on Aug. 26.

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“We were going to have a party at home,” his wife, Mary Fae Lee, said, but with so many people wanting to come and celebrate, they decided to have the biggest party of his life.

Lining the back walls of the room were photos of Robert Lee’s life. As guests filed into the room, they stopped to see photos depicting Robert’s face growing older and the expansion of his family. They saw pictures of him as he visited places all over the world, riding motorcycles, wearing various military and police uniforms, playing with his children and standing on the beach showing off his muscles.

Robert Lee was born in Kiln, Mississippi, later moving to the Caesar community when he was still a child. Now, he and his wife live next door to the house he grew up in, Mary Fae Lee said.

But the Lee family didn’t always live in the quiet town; they spent their first married years in what was then called the Panama Canal Zone.

There, Robert Lee worked in the dredging division, the penitentiary and later as a policeman patrolling neighborhoods filled with condemned houses in Gamboa, Mary Fae Lee said.

In 1989, they moved to Mobile where they lived for 15 years.

At 100-years-old, Robert Lee has been retired for 44 years, his wife said.

But just like his life began during World War I, his career began during World War II.

Robert Lee joined the Army on Christmas Day in 1942, when he was 25 years old, Mary Fae Lee said. He fought all over Europe during World War II she said, coming home in 1948, two years before they met.

“Our love was formed by letter,” Mary Fae Lee said.

Together, they have four children and numerous grand and great-grandchildren, she said.

After celebrating his 100th birthday this week, Robert Lee said he’s “going for 105 now.”

About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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