Early Life and World War Two

Robert Abbott was born in Rochester on June 19, 1915, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry C. Abbott of Lake Avenue. In his youth, he worked a paper route for the Rochester Times Union and carried another part-time job at the Maplewood YMCA. Abbott attended School No. 34 and graduated from Madison High School before enlisting as a Private in the U.S. Army in 1936, which he hoped might act as a springboard for an appointment to West Point. When his prospects proved disappointing after a year of service, Abbott took a leave of absence and returned to Rochester. By day he worked as a chemist for Kodak while at night he enrolled in industrial management classes at R.I.T. The outbreak of the Second World War in Europe compelled Abbott to reenlist in 1940; within two years, he had risen through all the enlisted ranks and won promotion to Second Lieutenant in the Infantry.

The Maplewood YMCA, located at the corner of Lake and Driving Avenues, opened in 1916. Abbott worked a part-time job here in the early 1930s.


Madison High School, where Abbott attended, stood on the corners of Epworth Street and Wilson Park. Built in 1922, it operated until 1981 and was demolished in 1983.

Abbott was wounded three times while in active service in World War Two -- twice during the Africa campaign and again during the invasion of Italy -- before taking part in the D-Day landing at Normandy. For his valor and bravery Abbott was awarded three Purple Hearts, the French Croix de Guerre, four Bronze Stars, and two Silver Stars. Following the War, New York Governor Thomas Dewey presented Abbott a Cross for Conspicuous Service. In addition to commendations, Abbott continued to earn promotions. He became a Major in 1944 while on assignment as executive officer under General Omar Bradley. Along with most of the American fighting forces demobilizing for peacetime, Abbott shipped back to the U.S. after the war. He returned to Rochester and a job at Monroe Country Veterans Information Bureau. Also like many of his homeward bound peers from the "Greatest Generation," Abbott contributed to the baby boom that flowed through the country on a surge of victory and prosperity. Abbott married Winona McConnaghie in February 1945 and celebrated the birth of a daughter, Roberta Lee Abbott, on July 5, 1946.

Next: Korea and "Death Valley"

A World War Two era propaganda poster encouraging Rochesterians on the home front to collect scrap metal for the war effort.