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DUNHAM--Robert Lee Robert Lee Dunham, affectionately known as Lee, the son of the late Colena Elizabeth Dunham and Albert Dunham, was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina on September 12, 1932. He transitioned from this life to his eternal home on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. At an early age, Lee moved to Brooklyn, New York. Following graduation from High School he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Not long after completing a term of service with the Air Force, Lee returned to Brooklyn and joined the New York City Police Department's Motorcycle Division. While working for the NYPD, Lee also matriculated at John Jay School of Criminal Justice. He proudly served New York City as a police officer for 20 years until retiring from the force. In 1972, Lee Dunham began his second career as a McDonald's Owner/Operator. He made history by opening the first McDonald's restaurant in Manhattan, and went on to operate seven McDonald's locations in New York and Northern New Jersey. Lee was an exemplary leader and mentor in the McDonald's system for over 39 years. He was one of the founding members of the National Black McDonald's Operators Association (NBMOA), serving as its President from 1982-1986, and was the organization's Chairman Emeritus. A tireless advocate on behalf of minorities, Lee successfully helped many to acquire McDonald's franchises and/or become National McDonald's suppliers. He made training and mentoring a lifelong priority, and was known throughout the McDonald's family for his passion of the brand and as a guiding counselor to others. Lee was also famous for asking tough questions and always advising everyone to do the “right thing.� His leadership in the McDonald's system was second to none and he was considered a true pioneer. During his stellar career Lee Dunham amassed numerous awards including: McDonald's Corporation Ronald Award McDonald's Corporation Golden Arch Award The Extraordinary Trailblazer Award from National Black McDonald's Operators The Black Businessman of the Year Award Samuel D. Proctor Phoenix Award from Abyssinian Development Corporation New York Urban League's Building Brick Award African American Male Empowerment Summit Entrepreneur Award, and The Public Advocate's New York City Advocate Award. Lee Dunham leaves behind to cherish his memory; his devoted wife, Linda; two sons, Bradley Jay Dunham and Brian Hairston (Candace); a brother, Bill R. Dunham (Barbara) of Burlington, NJ; sister, Lillie Mae Douglas of Kannapolis, NC; two granddaughters, Brianna and Courtney Hairston; and Sister in Law, Delores Washington of Alpharetta, GA; Brothers-in-law, John Hairston (Kathy) and Gerald Wayne Hairston of Charlotte, NC; nephews; William Dunham (Patsy) and Wynton Dunham (Marilyn) of Burlington, NJ; and Craig Dunham of London, England, Eric Newland of Greensboro, NC, Gregg Newland (Yolanda), John Hairston, Jr., Gerald Wayne Hairston, Jr. and Jeffrey Hairston all of Charlotte, NC;. nieces, Betty Dunham of Philadelphia, PA and Rheayanna Dunham of Hyland Park, NJ., Regina Hairston Jones (Edward) of Augusta, GA, and Jennifer Hairston of Charlotte, NC; and a host of aunts, cousins, relatives and friends who loved him dearly. He was predeceased by his brother John Wesley Dunham. Viewing and visitation will be held on Monday, May 23rd 2011 at Abyssinian Baptist Church 132 Odell Clark Place, New York, NY. Viewing from 10:00am to 11:00am. Funeral immediately following.

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Published in New York Times on May 22, 2011.
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8 entries
June 18, 2011
mr d was a great owner operator and the mc donalds in river edge new jersey we will miss him , david axelband
dave axelband
May 31, 2011
My condolences to Linda and the family. Lee holds a special place in my heart as well as my son's. Lee was there to direct him as if he was his dad. I thank God for Lee during those years. May he rest in peace with the Father, for surely such a man as he is worthy.
Dee Skinner Brooklyn, NY
May 25, 2011
I was blessed to met Mr Dunham, but sadly only once. I got to spend 30 minutes or so, of one on one time, in conversation as I drove him to the Palm Springs Calif. Airport from the NBMOA conference last summer, for my friend Brenda Powe. I was keenly aware that I was in the presence of a great and gentle giant who cared passionately about people. His legacy of service is a living memorial to a life well and fully lived.

In my sharing of Mr. Dunham's passing, I unexpectedly discovered that my 80 year old aunt who had worked as a teller at a Harlem bank, recalled Mr Dunham as a very distinguished and dashing entrepreneur in whom all the bank tellers took great pride, whenever he walked into the bank.

My condolences to wife, family, friends and colleagues. May God continue to bless and keep you all in the palm of HIS hand as you navigate this period of grief and loss safe in the knowledge that to be absent from the body is to be eternally present in SPIRT with the LORD!
David Forestier
May 24, 2011
Linda and Family,
The memories that Marion and I share are numerous and we just want to express our love for Lee and our condolences to you. God Bless you all and He has a wonderful servant up in heaven with Him.
Barbara R. Smith-Walker, Wilmington, NC and Marion Mitchell of Anguilla, W I.
Barbara Smith-Walker
May 23, 2011
Hi I remember Lee from our days at 21 St James Place. What a sorry to hear of his passing. My regards to his family, We all new Lee as well as his mom they were good days

Georgia Randolph 9B
May 23, 2011
We will never truly understand tImes like this, but it is not for us to understand. Now is the time to turn it loose and Trust in your God. Celebrate your life and live it like a Masterpiece.
Annis Alston Staley
May 22, 2011
Celebrating a life well lived. We will cherish the memories forever.
Marty Gillis
May 22, 2011
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
Jim Swanson
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