'The Senator' remembered for humor, community involvement, in Twinsburg

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Robert McDermott, with his grandson Dave McDermott.

TWINSBURG -- Hard-working. Humorous. Mustang aficionado. Involved in the community.

These are but a few ways that Robert McDermott, a longtime resident of Twinsburg and former Ward 2 Councilman for the city, was described. Mr. McDermott died Feb. 20 at 80.

"Bob gave much of his time serving as the Ward 2 Councilman from 2003 through 2015," said Mayor Ted Yates in a written statement. "Bob brought 40 years of business experience to his role on Council focusing on finances. As a member of the finance committee, he sought to control spending while making Twinsburg a 'community of choice' for families and businesses. Bob was never shy to let his opinions be known on Council and the city is better for his involvement."

Yates said that he served on City Council with Mr. McDermott during his last term.

"He was well-respected and appreciated by his fellow Councilmembers and Ward residents," Yates said. "Bob’s impact on the city will not be forgotten and he will be missed.”

Councilman Bill Furey (at-large) said in a written statement that Mr. McDermott "was a good friend and worked hard with city finances."

"He was a leader in making the city of Twinsburg fiscally responsible," Furey said. "I truly enjoyed the time we spent together and will be thinking of his family.”

Former Twinsburg City Councilman Robert McDermott died in February.

Randy McDermott, one of Mr. McDermott's sons, said his father "had little down-time."

"While our dad rarely missed a day of work, he didn’t really take a lot of time off for vacations, and the time he spent with his family was never wasted," said McDermott. "Weekends were filled with lawn work, chopping wood, digging dirt, construction projects, car repairs, kids’ sports, the Steeler’s and the Browns when they weren’t playing the Steelers."

Mr. McDermott also frequently coached the sports his sons played on, McDermott said. "If he wasn't coaching, he was cheering them on at every game."

While on Council, McDermott said his father "was focused on city finances, and changed the way Twinsburg spent money by requiring any transfer of city funds be pre-approved by Council prior to being spent for items not in the original budget." 

"This requirement, 'the McDermott Rule,' significantly changed the culture and control of Twinsburg city spending and is still in practice today," McDermott said.

In addition, Mr. McDermott "championed the design and construction of Twinsburg Fire Station II for the safety of the residents," McDermott said. Mr. McDermott was a former firefighter himself, and "was instrumental in building and staffing the new station which improved response times to northern Twinsburg significantly."

Robert McDermott, as a boy, with his sister Patricia Schibler McDermott and their dad John McDermott.

Stressed the importance of college

Mr. McDermott was born in Pittsburg, Penn., according to his obituary. Shortly after graduating from Turtle Creek High School in 1958, he owned and operated a Standard Oil service station. 

A favorite story Mr. McDermott also liked to share is from when he owned a Boron service station in Pittsburg, Penn., McDermott said.

"The story goes that he and my Uncle Ray built a tow-truck from spare parts at their shop," McDermott said. "On their first tow going up a steep hill in Pittsburgh, my Uncle Ray yells over to my dad and said, 'Man John, this baby really has some serious power! It doesn’t even feel like we’re towing anything.' My dad happened to look in the rearview mirror to see that the vehicle they were towing was rolling down the hill behind them, hitting everything on the way down."

In addition, Mr. McDermott served for a time on the Unity Volunteer Fire Department in Unity, Penn., McDermott said; he added this was "a highly memorable and gratifying time in his life."

"Shortly after qualifying as a paramedic, he responded to a call about a woman needing transport to the hospital as she had gone into labor," McDermott said. "He helped deliver the woman’s baby in the back of the ambulance. He said, 'I was amazing, one minute there were three people in the ambulance and the next minute there were four.'"

McDermott said that when his father first met his mother Jacqueline he introduced himself as "John" to her.

"She had older brothers that might track him down if things didn't work out," McDermott said. "To this day, many of our cousins only know him as Uncle John."

"Uncle John" was but one of several nicknames Mr. McDermott had. Another one was The Senator, which he had acquired during a card game due to his sitting on City Council, his son said.

Robert McDermott received his bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Hiram College in 1995 while attending night and weekend classes.

Mr. McDermott also stressed to his three sons the importance of college.

"In his words, he would say 'a college degree is the ticket to the dance,'" McDermott said. "When he graduated high school, he was accepted at Pitt but dropped out after his second year. Later in life closer to the age of 50, he earned a bachelors’ degree in business from Hiram College by attending weekends over a three-year period. This event cemented the idea in our family that it was never too late to change course and reach for something that others have told you is impossible. He was very proud of earning that degree and so were we."

In addition, McDermott said his father "enjoyed talking with his kids about business and the state of the economy."


Hobbies and pastimes 

McDermott said his father's favorite hobbies included home improvement projects and repairing vehicles. 

"If he wasn't at work, he was working at home," he said. "He loved classic Mustangs and over the years he had owned several and he always talked about how great Studebakers were. He had an addiction for Harbor Freight Tools."

Mr. McDermott also was known for several quotes, such as saying "filet of yak?" when he went to someone's house for a meal; "don't poke the bear,"; "It's a Lambrusco, it's an acquired taste," whenever he tasted any type of wine, and "you don't look well, can I hold your watch?"

"He actually received a plaque upon his retirement from Taylor Winfield with a list of some of his quotes," McDermott said.

When he retired from Taylor Winfield in 2007, Robert McDermott received a commemorative plaque with some of his favorite sayings and quotes.

McDermott said his mother "stood by his side all the way up to his last second on this earth."

"No matter the circumstance, she did not give up and neither did my dad," McDermott said. "My mom held out until the final months before sending him to a nursing home for 24-hour care." 

Mr. McDermott stayed at Anna Maria of Aurora, McDermott said.

In addition to his wife Jacqueline and Randy (Katherine nee Hendricks), Mr. McDermott is survived by sister Patricia (Ralph) Schibler; sons Robert (Sonya nee Kurtay-Samonte), and Richard (Sharon nee Cefaratti); and grandchildren Chris, David, Jack, Charlie, and Sam.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com