Hugh Lee Robertson, 78, a retired captain of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, died Oct. 26 at Inova Fairfax Hospital of complications from a stroke. He had lived in McLean since 1954.

He was one of the first paid employees of what had been an all-volunteer fire and rescue service, working at headquarters from 1955 until his retirement in 1976. He also volunteered for years with the McLean Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Robertson was born in Takoma Park and raised in Arlington by his maternal grandmother, Catherine L. Manning, a former philatelist for the Smithsonian Institution. He attended Washington-Lee High School before joining the Navy in 1944, where he gained the nickname "Rebel." He served on several tank landing ships in the Pacific during World War II.

After returning from the war, he worked briefly as a photographer for Ackad Studios in Dupont Circle, photographing Supreme Court justices and officials from various embassies.

In recent years, he volunteered at the McLean Treasure Trove, a consignment shop that benefited Inova Fairfax Hospital.

He was a collector who enjoyed going to yard sales and searching for Civil War relics with his metal detector. He did research to determine where soldiers had camped before and after battles near Balls Hill Road and Georgetown Pike in McLean, daughter Jane Lenherr of McLean said. Among his finds were bullets, belt buckles and a frying pan.

Mr. Robertson, called "the Captain," also liked reading and doing crossword puzzles in ink.

He had a special rapport with animals, his daughter said, and would feed birds out of his hands. At one time, a squirrel would come to him to be fed peanut butter with a spoon. "He has some kind of unspoken communication with them," Lenherr said.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 59 years, Ruby Lee Binsted Robertson of McLean; three other children, Linda Robertson of Glendale, Ariz., Hugh Robertson Jr. of Port Orchard, Wash., and Scot Robertson of Fairfax City; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.