DAV dedicates new van to former member, NCSU professor

mhankerson@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2013 

The DAV dedicated this van to honor former member Robert McCollum, who asked people to donate money to the chapter in his honor when he died in January 2012.

MECHELLE HANKERSON — mhankerson@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— The local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans recently unveiled a van that will shuttle veterans to and from doctor appointments.

The DAV dedicated the van in memory of Robert McCollum, an N.C. State University soil science professor and DAV member who died in January 2012.

Eugene Padget, chairman of the DAV’s open house committee, said that in any given week, the DAV drives 30 to 40 veterans to doctor appointments, usually in Durham but sometimes as far away as Greensboro.

McCollum was a member of the DAV before the veterans group had its own van, and he used his car to transport veterans to doctor appointments.

When he died, he requested people send donations to the DAV chapter. The chapter used them to buy the van with McCollum’s name on the side.

McCollum joined the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 17.

“That was kind of how the world opened up to (him) because he was always a little country boy,” his daughter, Linda Lee, said at the van dedication.

McCollum returned from the war without the use of his right arm. Since he couldn’t help his father around the farm anymore, he decided to go to school. He received his master’s degree from N.C. State in 1953 and his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1957.

It wasn’t an easy route: Professors often told him his work was messy. McCollum was right-handed, so he had to do his work with his left hand. Sometimes, Lee said, he got other students to write out his work.

The van dedication coincided with the chapter’s open house. Padget said it was a way to re-announce the chapter’s presence in Knightdale, where the group has worked for four years.

Raleigh City Council member Eugene Weeks attended the event, along with Knightdale Town Manager Seth Lawless. Weeks, who served in the Air Force for 20 years, said he is committed to helping the chapter fulfill its mission of helping veterans in the area.

“We’re all about the same thing – the quality of life not only for our citizens but the quality of life for our veterans,” Weeks said.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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