Worker Marks 60 Years With Ocean County Parks Department

Robert McKinley and his wife, center, were honored by (from left) Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines, Freeholder John P. Kelly, Michael T. Mangum, Director of the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation, and Mary Jane Bavais, Assistant Director of the Department. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

  TOMS RIVER – We’re not sure how Mrs. McKinley feels about this, but her husband Robert said the happiest day of his life is when he got a phone call about a job.

  That job was with the Ocean County Parks department. The phone call was from Aubrey Clayton. And Robert McKinley has been on the job for 60 years as of July 1.

  While the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders was celebrating July as its “parks and recreation” month, they also presented a proclamation to McKinley for his years of service in the parks department since July 1, 1959. The parks system has grown to encompass 27 active and passive parks and conservation areas.

  “I’ve known Bobby my whole life. Besides his family, we went to the same church. I’d also babysat for his sister’s children when I was in high school,” Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines. “He is a dedicated worker. He also worked for my father. My father worked for the parks department for more than 30 years. …I am proud of the [Ocean County Parks System], and most definitely to Bobby for the dedication you have done. You really have been there. Any time they’ve needed you, you’ve always been there.”

  McKinley is a laborer with the department still, and has no immediate plans to retire.

  The proclamation reads, in part: “Whether it’s running the front end loader for endless projects, setting up the county mobile stage for special events, operating specialized equipment to improve facilities, or extending his wisdom and knowledge to new employees, Bobby makes a positive impact for everyone to enjoy.”

  Sixty years ago, simply put, McKinley needed a job.

  “I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my future back in the ’50s when I got out of school. …I had applications in all over the place. Lily Clayton, Aubrey’s wife, is the one that started the ball rolling. She was visiting my mother…and she was on the sun porch when I came home one day, and my mother asked me how I was going with the applications, and I said I got them in there, but I can’t guarantee anything. That very night, Lily told Aubrey, and he calls me that very night and says, ‘How would you like to work in the park?’ And I thought he was kidding me. He said he wanted to see me at the shop the following day. I couldn’t sleep that night because…I knew the guys working there. So I went down and he started the paperwork going and, here I am.”

  There you are Bobby. No kidding.