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Robert (“Bob”) Louis McPhail, Sr.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021
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After 85 years of lovingly guiding his family along their life journeys, Robert (“Bob”) Louis McPhail, Sr., took the hand of our Savior and followed Him into eternity on Sept. 28, 2021. Bob was born in Calhoun City, Mississippi, on Nov. 18, 1935, to Dorthy Inez Taylor and John Henry McPhail. His younger years were spent partially in the Mississippi Delta where he laid claim to working in the cotton fields alongside his two brothers (Roland and Johnny) and his sister (Jean). He always said that was where he learned what a hard day’s work really was. When the Korean War began in the early 1950’s, Bob’s devotion to his country led him to join the U.S. Air Force during his junior year of high school. He was stationed in Germany and served in the same company as Johnny Cash. Little did Bob know that the shy young man sitting in the corner of a hanger playing a guitar would one day turn out to be one of Bob’s all-time favorite singers. Bob always felt honored and proud to have served his Country. After fulfilling his four-year military obligation, Bob returned home to Calhoun City to finish his high school education. When Bob returned home from Germany, he was surprised to discover that the once “maybe-not-too-shy” little girl who lived just over the hill from him since they were young children had grown up into a strikingly beautiful young woman. That is when JoAnne McGonagill caught Bob’s heart and their 64-year journey together began. After they graduated high school together, they were married at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on Sept. 10, 1957.The newlyweds moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where Bob attended the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Geology and subsequently his Masters in Geological Engineering.On May 15, 1959, Bob and JoAnne welcomed their first child into the world - a beautiful daughter, Mona Lynn McPhail. Four years later, on the exact same day in May (May 15, 1963), Bob and JoAnne’s second child Robert Louis McPhail, Jr., was born. After Bob received his Master’s Degree, he was recruited by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and was offered a job as a civil engineer. Bob worked with the Bureau for 21 years, which included moving his family to 10 different cities throughout California, Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska, Washington, Maryland, and Montana. Although these many years of moving his family came with various challenges, Bob remained dedicated to his work and committed to providing for his family in the best possible ways he could. Bob was gifted with strong managerial qualities and was selected to go into the Bureau’s program for management training. This subsequently led him to become a staff engineer in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Power in Washington, D.C. Bob was transferred to Billings, Montana, in 1973, where he became one of the youngest regional directors for the Bureau. It was during this time that JoAnne discovered it wasn’t the “Montana water” that was making her sick, and she gave birth to their third child, Jenny Dot McPhail, on Sept. 8, 1974. In 1977, Bob was charged with transferring the Bureau’s power marketing functions to a new Energy Department, which was created under the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Bob was tasked to create a new agency for the federal Department of Energy. This new agency was called Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Bob began his new journey as the “WAPA PAPA.” WAPA would become the largest of four federal power marketing agencies in the United States. Bob’s leadership in creating this successful agency did not go unnoticed. On Dec. 19, 1983, President Ronald Reagan awarded Bob the rank of “Distinguished Executive in the Senior Executive Service.” This prestigious award was given to only a handful of people who showed extraordinary accomplishments in management of governmental programs. After more than six years at WAPA, Bob saw that the company was running smoothly and successfully and looked to retire from the government. However, “retirement” for Bob did not mean “fully retired.” He went on to accept a position as General Manager and CEO of Basin Electric Power Cooperative in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1984. Basin Electric grew to become one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the country. Under Bob’s 15 years of leadership, Basin Electric acquired the nation’s only commercial-scale gasification plant, constructed a carbon dioxide pipeline to Canada, and ensured a sound and sustainable financial foundation. In 1999, Bob announced his retirement (for real this time) to spend more time with his family and to “smell the roses” - which was Bob’s term for “playing as much golf as possible.” In 2000, Bob and JoAnne began a new journey together as they moved to their retirement dream town of Red Lodge, Montana. It was here that they bought a beautiful log cabin (“Benhaven” - Scottish for Mountain Heaven) and it truly became the place where all the children and grandchildren could come visit and make memories that they will cherish for a lifetime. And Bob’s dream of playing as much golf as possible came true - rain or shine! He absolutely loved for family and friends to come visit him at Benhaven, where he would show them “God’s Country” as he so lovingly called it. He enjoyed capturing all of these moments in photos - and was always adamant that every photo had to have a person in it!Bob left this world as a very loved man. He was always a man in service of his fellow men. Education was something so extremely important to him - and through his generous heart, he helped so many receive their degrees. Bob was a man of unshakable conviction. He was a man of integrity and honor. His faith was strong and built on a firm foundation. While his successes as a manager and business man are endless, he will most be remembered as an amazing husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and a devoted son of our Almighty God. His love for his family was unwavering and unconditional. He spent his entire life to ensure that his family never struggled with the poverty he experienced as a child. He always enjoyed going to work and felt that he was making a difference in the lives of others, as well as in his country. He went from serving his country to protecting and serving his family and community. We will always cherish him for his famous homemade pizzas, his master BBQ skills (which always began with a lot of gasoline and prayers that he would not burn the house down), his signature hamburger (that was far larger than anyone could hold, let alone eat), his quiet yet stoic demeanor, and his absolute never-ending love for JoAnne’s famous chocolate pies (which he would sneak to eat in the middle of the night - and finish an entire pie)! Bob is survived by his beloved wife of 64 years, JoAnne McPhail; his oldest daughter Mona McPhail (Robert Johnston) - and her children Emily and Cody; son Robert McPhail Jr. - and his children Jacob and Aiden McPhail and Scott and Robert Kondrad; youngest daughter Jenny McPhail - and her children Micah, Gabriel, and Josephine; his brother Johnny McPhail (Carolyn); and three great grandchildren and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. A visitation will be held from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at Pryor Funeral Home located at 109 S. Monroe St., Calhoun City, Mississippi 38916. The memorial service will be officiated by Rev. Ron Rich at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church located at 82 Co Rd 341, Calhoun City, Mississippi 38916. A luncheon will follow the memorial service and the burial will be held at the McPhail Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to be made to your favorite Alzheimer’s charity.

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