Former IC Parks and Rec Superintendent passed away


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While many Iowa City residents may be familiar with the Robert A Lee Recreation Center, some do not know who was the eponym of the building.

The recreation center is part of the legacy of former Iowa City Parks and Recreation Superintendent Robert A Lee, who passed away on Oct. 17. He was 95.

For Lee’s son Mark Lee, the downtown center was his father’s passion.

“It was his dream to develop it,” Mark Lee said, “He was always really proud of it.”

Born in 1918, Robert Lee grew up in Cedar Rapids and graduated from Coe College.

Following a decision to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1942, Lee went on to receive five battle stars and obtained the rank of captain before returning to his home state.

Once back in Iowa, he served on the Waterloo Recreation Commission from 1946-1947, before becoming the first superintendent for the Cedar Falls Recreation Department from 1948-51.

In that same year, he made the move south to become the superintendent of the Iowa City Parks and Recreation department for more than 30 years until his retirement came in 1983.

Despite spearheading much of the rec center development, recognition for his work wouldn’t come until after his retirement, when the Iowa City City Council passed a resolution to name the building after him.

At a visitation held for family and friends of Robert Lee at the namesake recreation center, Jacqueline Lee, the former city official’s daughter, said her father always enjoyed working with younger generations.

And while Lee’s work kept him busy, she said he always found time for his family.

“He loved the outdoors, loved to travel,” she said. “We took great camping vacations every summer.”

She said those vacations marked some of her fondest memories of her father.

Colorado’s Peaceful Valley, Point Beach in Wisconsin, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Yosemite National Park were among the many trips the family took, Mark Lee said.

Mike Moran, who serves as the city’s current Parks and Recreation Department director, said that Robert Lee’s legacy extends beyond the Recreation Center, and without his work, it wouldn’t be where it is today.

“The only thing I had to work with is what he left us, and that was pretty good,” Moran said. “What you see now is what he left behind.”

Calling Robert Lee a “people person,” Moran said Robert Lee always had a positive influence on the people around him.

“Everybody that ran across [Robert] had a fond remembrance of him,” Moran said.

Robert Lee’s burial with military honors will take place today at Memory Gardens Cemetery, 2600 Muscatine Ave.

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