Dr. Robert James “Jim” McKay, Jr., M.D. died peacefully on Nov. 23, 2012 at Wake Robin in Shelburne, Vt. He was 95. Dr. McKay was born in New York City on Oct. 8, 1917 and grew up in Basking Ridge, N.J. He was educated at the Lawrenceville School, Princeton University (1939), and Harvard Medical School (1943-A). His education was enhanced by a winter between prep school and college in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and by a junior year abroad in Munich, Germany.
Dr. McKay married Elizabeth Stewardson Foote May 30, 1943. During World War II, he served as battalion surgeon for the 275th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 75th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge, the Colmar Pocket, the Rhine Crossing, and the advance into Germany and was awarded the Bronze Star. Following the war, Dr. McKay completed his pediatric training at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York and at Harvard Medical School. In 1950 he became founding chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, a position he held for 33 years, leading the Department to become one of the most respected in the country. He remained very active long after his official retirement, and he never stopped serving as a teacher and mentor to pediatricians across the country.
Dr. McKay and his beloved wife, Liz, were founding members of Wake Robin life care community in Shelburne, where he served on the Board of Directors and Health Care Committee. Liz and Jim were happily married for 56 years until her death in 1999. His second wife, Martha Wellman, became his beloved companion in his last years. Dr. McKay is survived by Martha and her two children, and by his four sons, Robert James McKay, III and wife Barbara of North Ferrisburgh, David M. McKay of Middlebury, Daniel G. McKay and wife Nancy of Bangor, Maine, and Timothy F. McKay and wife Betsy of Peacham as well as 11 grandchildren and one great grandson.
Dr. McKay will be remembered by his patients and their families for his diagnostic skill, and for the gentleness, respect, understanding, sympathy, and kindness he expressed for them and for generations of medical students, interns, and residents, in whom he fostered those same qualities. Despite leading a busy professional life, he enjoyed travel, fishing, cutting wood and tending the garden on the family’s farm in Williston where he and Liz raised their family and lived for 44 years. In later years, he also enjoyed summers with Martha at Lake Willoughby. He took great pride in the activities and accomplishments of his offspring to whom he was a beloved father and grandfather and for whom he was always there when it counted.
Donations in Dr. McKay’s memory may be made to the Vermont Children’s Hospital, Development Office, Mail Stop 461OH4, 111 Colchester Ave, Burlington, VT 05401. A Circle of Remembrance will be held at Wake Robin in Shelburne on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 pm, and a celebration of his life will be held at the UVM College of Medicine on Jan. 9 at 8 am.