Robert Lee Gaines

[ Age 81 ] World War II veteran worked for 36 years at Beth Steel

October 30, 2006

Robert Lee Gaines Sr., a World War II veteran who worked for 36 years at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point plant, died of cancer Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He was 81 and lived in Turners Station.

Born in Rock Hill, S.C., Mr. Gaines attended the Emmitt Scott School there. He worked for a time as a sanitation worker, and in 1943 married Eliza James, a childhood friend.

Soon after his marriage, he joined the Army. He was sent into northern France with invading forces, and served there until after the end of the war. In December 1945, according to his discharge papers, he suffered a gunshot wound and was shipped home to Fort Bragg, N.C. He was honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of corporal.

After working for a time in Rock Hill, Mr. Gaines moved to Baltimore in 1954 and went to work at Sparrows Point. He soon sent for his wife and young daughter to join him.

During 36 years at Sparrows Point, he worked in a variety of jobs - at the blast furnace, as a crane operator and in transportation. He retired in 1990.

Mr. Gaines was a member of the Greater St. John Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon for the last 12 years. He also used his carpentry skills to make repairs around the church.

He sang gospel music, often with no accompaniment except his hands and feet. Once, when the electricity failed, his daughter, Linda Jones of Baltimore, recalled, "the pastor said, `That won't stop us, will it, Brother Gaines?'"

Mr. Gaines loved to work in the yard of his home in Turners Station. He manicured his lawn and roses to a point where a neighbor asked if he vacuumed them, too, his daughter said.

He was a member of the Fleming Senior Center and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4438 in Turners Station.

Mrs. Gaines died in 1995, after 52 years of marriage.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Greater St. John Baptist Church, 209 Walnut Ave., Dundalk.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, Robert Lee Gaines Jr. of Baltimore; five sisters, Sallie Bertha, Elizabeth Ann Miles, Ida Ree Gaines, Martha Glenn and Mary Hinton, all of Rock Hill, S.C.; two brothers, Bobbie Lee Gaines of Rock Hill and Alex Gaines of Baltimore; three grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren; and a special friend, Hilda Coad of Dundalk.

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