CHVFD Mourns Past President Robert E. “Gene” McClelland, Sr.
On February 9, 2021, our department lost a dedicated, well-respected member of our company and of the Prince George’s County fire service, but more importantly we lost a dear friend and family member.
Robert E. “Gene” McClelland, Sr. was born into the fire service family on August 25, 1932. His father David Patterson McClelland and Uncle Henry Truitt McClelland were charter members of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department (1928). His family later moved to the Maryland Park community.
As a teenager, Gene joined the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department in 1949. Rising through the ranks of the department and became a lifetime member. He served as: lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, vice president and president.
In 1952, he married the love of his life Patsy May, who was the sister of CHVFD member Frank Greer. Patsy also served in the Ladies Auxiliary in the 1950s. They would start their family in Capitol Heights and welcomed three sons Robert (Bobby), James (Jim), and Jeffery (Jeff) and also raised Gene’s sister Bonnie.
Back when many of the members lived in the town, they would respond from home to get the engines out. When the house siren blew, Gene would often hop the fence of their home on Capitol Heights Boulevard and his kids would watch him run up the street to the firehouse (now the Capitol Heights Town Hall). Gene and the Capitol Heights boys ran their fair share of calls both inside the town and in the surrounding communities. He also helped operate our first ambulance, a 1949 Cadillac, running its first call in Hillside on September 4, 1954.
Gene also served as a part-time Maryland State Forest Warden in the Cedarville State Forest in Brandywine during fire season.
In 1951, Gene was hired as one of the first Prince George’s County fire dispatchers at the Fire Control Board. In the early days, he worked out of the Capitol Heights firehouse, but then later moved to the Fire Control Board Hyattsville. This was before computer-aided dispatch, so early members of the Fire Control Board worked a switchboard and used actual run cards to send firefighters to their next emergency. With the call volume and repetition, dispatchers could often recall the assignments from memory. When a charter form of government was established, the Fire Control Board became part of the Prince George’s County Fire Department in 1971. Gene continued to serve for nearly 25 years, and he retired in 1975 as a Lieutenant from the Prince George’s County Fire Department.
For over 70 years, Gene McClelland served the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department faithfully. He was a mentor to many and respected for his dedicated service and leadership. He served most recently as president of our department, an office which he held for 14 years. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for both the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association (1998) and the Maryland State Firemen’s Association (2015) and received numerous other awards for his 71 years of service.
Gene instilled this same dedication in his sons Robert E. McClelland, Jr. (Lieutenant and Lifetime Member of CHVFD, and Retired PGFD Firefighter) and James E. McClelland, Sr. (PGFD Deputy Fire Chief, Past Chief and President and Lifetime Member of CHVFD) and later welcomed his grandchildren Jennifer A. McClelland (Vice President and Lifetime Member of CHVFD), and James E. McClelland, Jr. (PGFD Assistant Fire Chief and Former CHVFD Member) into the fire service.
His legacy of service inspires us all to care for one another and leave the world better than we found it. The officers and members of the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department will miss Gene and the example he set for us.
Please join us in keeping the McClelland family and our department in your thoughts and prayers.
Updated Funeral Information for Robert E. “Gene” McClelland, Sr.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, face mask and social distancing are required at both the viewing and the graveside service/interment. Capacity at Gasch’s Funeral Home for the service is limited to 10 people at a time, so family and friends will need to rotate through the viewing. A graveside service has been chosen to allow more people to attend.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Gene’s memory to the charity of your choice.
Saturday, February 20, 2021 – 9:00 – 11:00 am
Gasch’s Funeral Home
4739 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, Maryland 20781
After the viewing, a procession will follow to the Fort Lincoln Cemetery for the
graveside service and interment at 11:30 am.
Fort Lincoln Cemetery
3401 Bladensburg Road
Brentwood, Maryland 20722