At age 18 he served in the Coast Guard for one year, transferring to the Navy Air Corps before receiving a medical discharge. He then joined the American Field Service and was assigned to the British Eighth Army, working as an ambulance driver during WWII. His service with the AFS took him to Italy and then Germany where he participated in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen in 1945. After service in India he returned to the United States and went to St. John’s College.
Mr. McNamee’s early career included working as floor manager of WPIX-TV in NYC and then American Cyanamid Company, where he created medical teaching films, after which he continued for many years as an independent medical filmmaker. He received two Golden Eagle Awards, the first for a film on microsurgery with 90% of the footage shot through a microscope. His list of medical film credits also includes “Human Heart Transplant” with Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, among many others.
Mr. McNamee had begun his exploration of the world early on while still in high school and after the war he continued to travel through Europe, first to Greece on a cattle ship and then to Paris, Grenoble and Switzerland where he enjoyed skiing, a favorite wintertime activity. Since discovering French films and jazz music as a youth, Paris beckoned and, after a brief return to the states he returned there to live for several years and also attended film school. Most important, he met his future wife Mollie (Bradbury-Palmer) in Paris and after they married and had the first of their three children there, they returned to the states with their son Ian in 1950, eventually settling in Westport, CT, for many years. Mr. McNamee often traveled with both friends and family to Wardsboro, and the rustic cabin he had purchased there in the ‘50s, a place of tranquility where many fine times were enjoyed by all through the years. In 1975 they happily relocated full time to Vermont, opening and operating Mountain Jeanery, their “army and navy boutique” in Wilmington, for more than 30 years before retiring.
Mr. McNamee will be remembered by those who knew him as a man of varied interests, a lover of literature and jazz, Louis Armstrong and Mark Twain, among so many others. He played standup bass and had a musician’s ear. A hilarious and entertaining storyteller, he was someone who could channel Stan Laurel and W.C. Fields, and never missed an opportunity to express his unique sense of humor. He had the ability to draw people in, and those fortunate enough to call him friend, husband, father, or grandfather will think often of him and be comforted by the many smiles and stories he left behind.
Mr. McNamee is survived by his wife of 63 years, Mollie P. McNamee, of Wardsboro; daughters, Michele McNamee, of Townshend, and Anne and husband Gilman R. Oxley, of Wilmington; granddaughter, Sarah (Rankine) and husband John Galaske, of Whitingham; and great grandsons, David and Kyle Galaske. A son, Ian, died in 2010.
Future memorial plans will be at the convenience of the family. Condolences may be left at legacy.com. Memorial contributions in Mr. McNamee’s name may be sent to Wardsboro Fire & Rescue at PO Box 151, Wardsboro, VT 05355.