Lion at the Gate

By Rashaun Graves

Guest Writer

The next time you walk past the security desk in the lobby of the Giovatto Library – don’t.

You’ll miss Robert Makey. And he might just brighten your day.

U n d e r n e a t h that shock of white hair, behind that smile and the lines they’ve made in a face that’s gotten used to smiling, is a person with a story to tell.

But you might wonder if you’d still be smiling if you’d seen what Robert Makey has seen.

Life started hard for Makey. He grew up in a workingclass neighborhood in Harrison, New Jersey. By age seven, he was alone, when both his parents died. After being taken in by his four older sisters, Makey went on to go to the local elementary school. But despite the tragedy that marked his childhood, Makey has fond memories of growing up in Harrison.

“It was very safe,” Makey recalled. “Everyone looked out for and took care of each other.”

But Makey is quick to point out that his hometown has changed.

“It is not the same Harrison that it used to be,” he said. “Now there’s iron chains around the stores and the neighborhood as a whole has changed a lot.”

After graduating from Harrison High school, Makey enlisted in the Navy at 19, and served for four years in the intelligence department.

“It was like the CIA.”

When Makey was discharged from the Navy, he went to work as a technician builder for AT&T. The company built the interior and exterior of the phone. Every little part was designed in their building. He worked there for 33 years, but lost his job when “all the equipment shipped overseas,” and the company embarked on a plan to cut 10,000 American jobs.

“I got screwed,” Makey said.

Makey was once a bartender in his family-owned saloon in Harrison, New Jersey. There were thirteen bars on the street.

“Harrison was a busy place with much industry, filled with regular working people,” Makey said. “The streets were filled with bars and everyone would come home from work and have a drink. You gotta remember this is the 40’s and 50’s!”

Makey has been married for 56 years to his wife, Ethel, and they have four children: Robert Jr., John, Donna Marie and Karynn.

Ethel Makey worked at the Giovatto Library in periodicals and retired in 2000. She told him about the job opportunity for a position as a receptionist/ security guard at the library. Makey said that at first he was timid and initially hesitated to take the offer. He’s been here now for 13 years.

M a k e y ’ s favorite part of the job is interacting with students.

“I’ve helped many here at FDU,” Makey said, “almost as a tutor would. I enjoy talking to students like you. They teach me a lot.”

Makey said that many ELS students who graduated in past years come back to FDU and visit him.

Robert and Ethel Makey love to travel, particularly on cruises. They have been To England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Spain and all through the Caribbean.

Up next? The Middle East, and perhaps Japan.

“Days go by fast,” Mackey said.

And he had a piece of unexpected advice for the young.

“Don’t save the money,” Makey said. “You can’t take it with you. Money is made to be spent!”