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PENDERGRAST, Robert Robert Allison Pendergrast, retired chemical engineer, died on July 26, 2012 at age 89 in Atlanta. The youngest of four brothers born to John Brittain and Ruth Hodnett Pendergrast, Bob was a lifelong resident of Atlanta. He attended Druid Hills High School where he learned to play the upright bass, and graduated from Georgia Tech in 1943 at the age of 20, at a time when the push for more engineers for the war effort meant year round classes for three years. After a semester of graduate school he answered the call to duty during World War 2, when he was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge Tennessee. There he worked as a scientist contributing to the development of the atomic bomb. After the war, he and his older brother Ambrose founded the Pendergrast Chemical Company in Atlanta, manufacturing agricultural chemicals until 1965. He completed his professional engineering career with USS Agrichemicals in Decatur. A man of many talents, he was a jazz musician with the Emory Aces in his college years, and later played bass and piano with "The Seventeen", a jazz band made up of Atlanta businessmen and professionals. He met his wife, Elizabeth Irwin Lapsley, in the choir at Druid Hills Presbyterian Church. They were married in 1954 and remained active in church music all of their lives, and could often be found singing hymns around the piano with their children, or folk songs with his guitar around a campfire. He became choir director at Clairmont Presbyterian Church where his wife Libba was organist and he served as an elder. They were instrumental in acquiring a new organ for the church, which he was also able to repair and maintain. He was an excellent sailor and had one of the first sailboats on Lake Allatoona after its opening. After retirement, he returned to school and studied musical composition at Georgia State University and then published several church anthems which are widely used and loved. His love of horticulture can still be seen in the many flowering camellias and azaleas around his home, knowing the botanical names and history of them all. Devoted to his family, he spent his later years researching family genealogy, published a book of Pendergrast family history, and loved to recount detailed stories of the lives of his ancestors. Exceptionally well read, he complained recently to his son that it was increasingly difficult to find a book in the library that he had not read. Preceded in death by his parents and his oldest brother Ambrose Hodnett Pendergrast, he is survived by two brothers, John Brittain Pendergrast, Jr. and William Jefferson Pendergrast, his wife, Elizabeth Lapsley Pendergrast, three children, Samuel Lapsley Pendergrast, Robert A. Pendergrast, Jr., and Ruth Elizabeth Pendergrast, and eight grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 3:30 PM on Sunday, July 29th at Emory Presbyterian Church, with a reception to follow. The family will also receive friends from 6-8 PM on Saturday, July 28th at A. S. Turner and Sons Funeral Home and Crematory.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 27, 2012
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