Paul J. MacDonald
July 28, 1937 – April 9, 2017
(with contributing thoughts from my brothers, Peter and Paul, and my sister Laura)
Dad was many things to many people, but he was a storyteller to all who encountered him. Never one for a loss for words, Dad really knew how to spin a tale. A good majority of the stories he told were from his childhood. Since we find ourselves in church this morning it’s appropriate to share a favorite memory of dad’s of when he was a young boy attending mass with his older cousin Emilia. Like lots of young and active boys he found it hard to sit still and be quiet. Emilia decided to give Paul her rosary beads to keep him occupied. Mass continued on and all was quiet until he took the beads spinning them with gusto and blurted out, “Hang on Jesus, you’re going for a ride!”
Dad was born in Somerville and grew up in Charlestown, the 4th son of Red Jack and Sadie MacDonald. He was a first generation American and like his father, he had flaming red hair and a fiery personality to match it.
First Dad was a son and a brother. He always spoke highly of his parents and remained close to his siblings throughout his life. In 1965 he married our mother and by early January of the following year they had their firstborn child. Dad loved being a family man. By mid 1970 he was the proud father of four children. Dad worked hard to provide for our family so that Ma could be home to raise the children.
Each of us learned to play cribbage on our Dad’s lap, 15-2, 15-4, 15-6, the rest won’t mix, while sipping on his Miller Tall. We were all going to play the game before we learned to read and write. Some of us grew to love the game and still play to this day. Dad played regularly with his brothers and sisters when they were together. Dad’s playing dropped off significantly after our Uncle Donald passed, the two of them could play 10 games in a row without batting an eye.
Dad enjoyed giving his own insights on life but never claimed to give advice. Instead, he would say something like, “here’s a suggestion that you might not like, but try to keep an open mind.” Even this being said, his brother John called him the preacher.
Today we grief together with all of you and we appreciate the love and support that we have received since Dad fell ill. However, Dad wouldn’t want us to be sad for long, he always enjoyed a good laugh and he wants us to continue telling the funny stories that he told us. Towards the very end he reminded us to take many pictures with the ones you love, at that moment Laura took a selfie of herself, Annesia and Dad….he retorted, “this isn’t my best look.”
My father was not a perfect man, nor did he purport to be. He would not seek it in others either, only expecting the best of them. His demeanor spoke to a different time and was influenced by the city that reared him. Keen intellect was important to him and as an educator he gained respect for both sides of the desk. You could see his thirst for knowledge if you broached a topic he had little or no insight on. As a quick study he expanded upon the information gathered and pass it on, as if by need. Once a teacher, forever a student. If my father wore a suit it was one of patience, I’d call it his long game but cribbage only takes 15-20 minutes. And in that line lies some of his whit, catch it if you can!
If you ran into my dad while he was out shopping with our mother, when she was still nimble and quick, you’d find him parked on a bench with the current Louis L’Amour he was reading. Dad was an avid reader who loved to read about things he was interested in to develop his understanding of the world we live in. Dad never left the house without a book in hand so it was no surprise that when he went to the ER on March 29th he had a Louis L’Amour book in his jacket pocket.
Shortly after Dad entered the US Air Force he was introduced to computing using a machine – this was in 1954. This introduction to machines that today fit in the palm of our hands took up quite a bit of square footage back in the day. Dad loved the work that he did and was fascinated with the advancing technology. The first time he heard the term “Desktop computer” was in 1955 when it was simply a vision of the future. While still in elementary school Dad sat us down to a personal computer that weighed 75 lbs – the screen was small and the keyboard pretty big. Even though big career opportunities came his way, he turned them down because they would have up rooted our family.
For the last 2 years Dad has been the primary caretaker of his beloved wife Joan, our mother. My husband Dan and I have witnessed the tender care that he provided for her in these last days. He laid down his life for hers. It was a beautiful and sometimes bittersweet scene to watch. Dad rests in the knowledge that Mum will be well cared for by their children. His love for her will live on in us.
Just a couple of weeks ago, one of the neurological teams at UMass came into my dad’s hospital room to conduct some tests. At one point, one of the doctors placed a piece of paper on the tray table in front of my dad and handed him a pen. “Paul, will you write your name for me?” and Dad said, “My whole name?” the doc said, “yes.” Dad said, “Are you sure you want me to write my whole name?” The doc said, “sure, write your whole name.” So my dad picked up the pen and began to write “Paul Jerome Peter Angus Rory Hector”…at this point the doctor said, ‘that’s enough” and attempted to take the pen away from dad who would not let go of it and looking the doctor in the eye said, “you said I was to write my whole name” then dad finished, “NeilJoseph MacDonald.” One of the docs turned to me and asked, “Is he a king?” I just chuckled. In some respects, it would not be far-fetched to say that Dad thought himself to be a king.
Paul Jerome Peter Angus Rory Hector NeilJoseph MacDonald is my Dad’s whole name. Dad was a member of two clans – MacDonalds and Campbells. He along with his brothers and sisters spent childhood summers on Cape Breton with his mother’s people. His Uncle Mickey thought his given name, Paul Jerome MacDonald was insufficient; and he was probably baptized with these additional names in whiskey.
Often my Dad liked to have the last word, it is only fitting for me to give it to him here at his funeral: whether we were heading out the door or perhaps about to launch into a debate, he would say,
“Now – conduct yourselves in a manner that reflects favorably on your ancestors.”