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Sunday, September 14, 2014

52 Ancestors #37: Arthur Leon "Mac" McDonald

     Arthur Leon "Mac" McDonald was my stepfather, my mother's second husband. While I knew him for many years, in writing this blog I realize that I could have known more abut his life! After he died I researched his family tree and wished I'd done it while he was alive because he would've been thrilled and fascinated by some of what I found. More of that to come.

     Mac was born on 29 August 1919 in Oroville, Washington on his parents' farm. He was the son of  Leon Francis McDonald and Isabelle Maude Weir. His sister, Vivian was born on 24 Jan 1924. By 1930, the family was living in Renton, Washington, near Seattle. In 1935, they were in nearby Kent, which is probably where Mac graduated from High School in 1937. By 1940 his parents were separated or divorced as his mother and sister are living with his mother's brother in the 1940 Census. His father remarried, Mary Jean McDonald, by whom he had earlier had a daughter, Joyce Eileen. In 1943, his mother also remarried, Samuel Burgess. So in his teenage years there was quite a bit of turmoil in his family.

     Arthur was not able to go to College which he always regretted and felt inferior because of. He became an auto mechanic which he was very proficient at and suited for. On 4 May 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served for the duration of the war, primarily in Alaska in the Bering Straits. He primarily remembered this as boring and cold! His enlistment record describes him as a Machinists apprentice, 5'10" tall and 179 pounds. Photos from that time show him as a good looking young fellow.

     After the war, Mac returned to the Seattle area.  In 1930 he and his Dad had built a small (970 sq. ft.) house in Tukwila. Mac lived in it for almost the rest of his life. In 1955 he married Helen J. Philips who had two children from a previous marriage.  They were divorced in 1959. In 1968, he met the love of his life, Margaret Peterson. They were both attending a Parents Without Partners meeting in Seattle and she volunteered to play the piano so they could sing. She noticed his fine voice and he noticed her loveliness. They were married on 20 Sep 1969 in Tukwila, Washington.  they remained happily married until she died on 5 Dec 1999.

     Mac continued to live in the house he'd built until he was simply too old to live alone so he sold it in 2006 and moved to a retirement home at Judson Park. He died there on 8 May 2012. He was just 3 1/2 months shy of 93 years old.

     Mac had an avid thirst for knowledge and ideas.  He read voraciously and was a frequent visitor to the local library. There were always stacks of books in his house with notes and markers in them. He was always happy to discuss ideas with anyone who so desired. This made him very well known and loved ta the library. He was very active in politics, being an ardent liberal Democrat.  He worked in his local precinct getting out the vote. He was equally active and devoted to his Church-a Methodist Church.  Margaret was a Unitarian so after they were married they divided their time between the local Methodist and Unitarian Churches. the Ministers of both Churches officiated at both of their memorial services. At Mac's Memorial Service, people spoke with great fondness of him from all of these areas. His enthusiasm, cheerfulness and goodwill were truly appreciated by all who knew him.

     Two areas that were especially important to Mac were the Civil War and his Scottish. He read avidly about the Civil War, it was easy to buy him Christmas presents because all you had to do was get him a book on the Civil War! when he retired as a mechanic, he took his dream vacation.  He went and visited the Civil War battle fields and places that most inspired him, especially Gettysburg.
He was very proud of his Scottish heritage.  He wore the tartan and went to the Scottish games and festivities in Seattle every year. I have his book of Scottish tartans.

     Although he didn't have any of his own, Mac loved children.  His nieces and nephews loved his visits.  He was a wonderful grandfather to my children.  He even came to my daughter's wedding, she really wanted him to come so he did. After he died, his nieces and nephew buried his ashes on the farm in Oroville where he was born and built a cairn over the spot as is a Scottish tradition. They built one for Margaret, also, over her ashes next to his.  He had been supposed to scatter her ashes over Puget Sound but my sister found them after he died in his room. We think he had been unable to part with her completely so now they rest together.

     As I said, after he died I traced his ancestry using Ancestry.com. I was blown out when I discovered that his great grandfather, Randal McDonald fought for the Union in the Civil War. Mac would've been so thrilled by that! Randal fought with the 20th Regiment, New York Cavalry.  His muster records describe him as: blue eyes, light hair, light complexion, 5'8".  Randal's mother's father, Joshua Otis, fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Mac would've gotten a kick out of that, also. Mac's McDonald forbears came to the U.S. in 1790 as part of a group of Scots who settle in Caledonia Co., Vermont. His Great Great Great Grandfather, Alexander McDonald, was part of this group.  He was born in Govan, Scotland, outside of Glasgow. From my research it appears that mac's McDonalds were from the MacDonalds of Glengarry in the Northeast Highlands. Glengarry castle can still be visited as a ruin and there still MacDonalds in the area. I am adding a photo of the castle and of the ancient and modern plaids of the MacDonalds of Glengarry. I know he would've been excited abut this.



1 comment:

  1. We were certainly lucky that our mother and Mac found each other! He was very caring and solicitous of her, and took care of her in an intensive way for probably 10 years at the end of her life when we was in a hospital bed in the living room.

    Mac was fun to be around, though. He was excited by ideas, books, commentary on the radio and TV, his Scottish and Irish ancestry, religion, politics, family get togethers, and anytime people came together and talked about any of these things! He would check stacks of books out of the library (one of his two favorite places, the other being church). Rather than reading them straight through, however, he tended to dip in, find something he liked, then get tempted to go to the next one.

    On his WWII service, he liked to tell the story of having gotten his first good job as a mechanic, then going to the mailbox and pulling out a long, business envelope, and reading the letter inside, which started: "Greetings, You have been selected . . . " This was how the Selective Service (i.e., draft board) started all their letters. He was given a time to appear for a physical, and that was that!--you're in the Army now! Before he was stationed in the Aleutian Islands, he was part of an Army team that built the Al-Can Highway.

    You mentioned Mac's attending Devin's wedding. He was so pleased to be invited and excited about the whole event. He didn't seem to have thought of himself as "grandpa" but seemed to like the idea. He loved the band at the reception because they played some of the 40s Big Band tunes he loved. Mention Glen Miller, and he's start humming one of the favorites! Devin or Wendy sent him a framed photo from the reception of him with Devin and the band in the background. He kept that photo with him in his room at Judson Park.