Robert Lee and June Marie Johnstone McManaman

  1926 -2017                1928-1994  

Robert McManaman, a conductor and baritone soloist, and his wife June, a pianist, taught music in  two colleges and three academies in the Seventh-day Adventist educational system in the U.S. and South Africa. They were also active as church musicians in community churches whenever possible during their careers.

Robert was born on July 20, 1926, in Wichita, Kansas, the son of Charles Levi and Maude Inez Otis McManaman. Although his parents were not musicians, they bought a piano and started him on piano lessons when he was five. He continued music study at Enterprise Academy under Norman and Eleanor Krogstad.


Following graduation from EA in 1944, Robert attended Union College, where he majored in religion and minored in music. He studied voice with Evelyn Lauritzen, June Herr, and Harlyn Abel and sang in groups conducted by Abel and Wayne Hooper. He also enjoyed the friendship of several others who, like himself, would enjoy significant music careers, including Harold Lickey, Lyle Jewell, and Merritt Schumann.


While at UC, he met June Marie Johnstone, a pianist and music major from North Dakota. June had been born there on January 7, 1928, the daughter of Samuel and Jane Diede Johnstone. She studied music at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota under Adrian and Evelyn Lauritzen, and at the McPhail School of Music in nearby Minneapolis. Following graduation from academy in 1945, she enrolled as a music major at Union College. After their marriage in 1947, and Robert’s graduation in 1948, they were hired to teach music at Sunnydale Academy.


In 1953 they were invited to join the faculty at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern University, in Keene, Texas, where they were known affectionately as "the Macs." In 1956 they accepted an invitation to teach music at Helderberg College in Somerset West, South Africa, where Robert would chair the program, teach voice, and direct the choir, and she would teach piano.


For the next nine years, McManaman led the college's nationally known choir, touring extensively with them throughout that country and performing in important venues in major cities. They also sang on the South African Broadcasting Company radio network and were compared favorably with nationally known choirs by many reviewers.


Robert started an instrumental program that enabled the school to host quality groups such as Salvation Army brass bands and similar groups from nearby Stollenbosch University. These contacts led to opportunities for witnessing for the church.


In December at the end of the 1965 school year, the McManamans left Africa so that he could attend Andrews University. Following his completion of an M.A. in music in the summer of 1966, they started teaching that autumn at Rio Lindo Academy in California. After teaching there for fifteen years, they accepted positions at San Pasqual Academy in Escondido, California, where they taught until they retired in 1988 and moved to San Marcos, California. They were living there when June died on December 11, 1994, at age 66.


After her death, Robert met Mardelle Burgeson-Dufort, a singer and pianist and an acquaintance from college days, at an alumni reunion weekend at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota. They married in 1996 and then lived in San Marcos and Forest Hills, California. In 2004, they moved to Monmouth, Oregon.


Whenever possible during his career, Robert had held music positions in various Protestant churches and frequently sang in choirs and as a soloist for presentations of major choral works. He was a member of the Oregon Adventist Men's Chorus, a group that tours and sings frequently in the Northwest and on occasion nationally and internationally. The McManamans were members of the Dalles, Oregon, church, where Mardelle was one of the church's pianists and Robert organized a men's chorus which sang monthly for church services.


They were living in Monmouth, Oregon, when Robert died on February 22, 2017, at age 90. Mardelle was living there when she died on August 20, 2018.



Source: Interviews with Robert and Mardelle McManaman 21 February 2011and letter from Robert, 28 February 2011; 1930 U.S. Federal Census; Pacific Union Recorder, 12 December 1966, 2; Southern African Division Outlook, 15 December 1956, 12; 15 November 1965, 8; 15 January 1966, 11; Southwestern Union The Record, 22 July 1953; 10 March 1954; The Chronicle of Southwestern Adventist College, 1994, 136; Review and Herald, 2 November 1961, 44; 3 August 1967, 29; CD liner, Helderberg College Choir, A Millennium Celebration, 1948-2000.