John Gordon MacDonald

Jan 28, 1916 - Feb 13, 2010


John Gordon MacDonald passed away on February 13, 2010 at the Golden Pond in Sacramento. He was born on a cold wintry night near the Canadian border in Walhalla, North Dakota on January 28, 1916. His father, the Reverend John MacDonald, emigrated from Scotland with his family in 1891. Both his father and mother, Margaret Lakey MacDonald graduated from Macalester College where they met and married. “Mac,” as he was known most of his life, graduated as the Valedictorian of Hazelton High School in North Dakota. He worked his way through college doing odd jobs in town or on farms, assisted by the New Deal program for youths, and obtained his B.A. degree at Jamestown College in 1937. He did find time to take organ and piano lessons during college and became proficient on the pipe organ. Classical music, especially Bach, was his life-long passion.

His second teaching job took him to Corvallis, Montana where he taught high school history and social studies and met a teacher, Bernice Johnson, the love of his life. Mac joined the Army Air Corps in Missoula and obtained his Wings on July 26, 1942. Later that day he married Bernice and they enjoyed 64 years together. After several months of waiting around in training at several air bases, he flew the B-24 Bomber with his crew to India in the CBI Theater. In the course of over 50 missions, Mac was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals with Clusters. He earned his rank of First Lieutenant and Captain while in India and Burma, and returned to Homestead Air Base in Florida where he finished his active duty instructing pilots on instrument flying. Ultimately he retired from the Reserves at Malmstrom Air Base with the rank of Lt. Colonel. Using the GI Bill, Mac obtained his Masters Degree in History from the University of Montana in 1950. His thesis was on the “Navigation of the Yellowstone” which is often read by historians and other researchers, and is still available in the archives of the Parmly Billings Library. Mac became Principal of Laurel High School and later served as Superintendent of Schools in Belt, Montana. Mac and his family moved to California in the late 1950’s. He did some work on his doctorate and taught at the University of California, Berkeley for several years, ending up as a Vice-Principal and Principal at a new Mission San Jose High School in Fremont. In 1972, Mac took a position as a field representative in School Administration in Sacramento and retired in 1981. In the communities where Mac and Bernice lived, they were active volunteers and always sang in the church choirs. Mac played the organ in various churches. Mac served a total of four three-year terms as an Elder of the Fremont Presbyterian Church, several terms in the Presbytery, and a term with the Synod of the Pacific. He also went to the General Assembly as a commissioner.

In retirement, both Mac and Bernice enjoyed many trips abroad and to the Holy Land. Mac was an avid reader, a student of theology and history, and became an expert gardener. He never quit teaching Adult Education at church and in the community. In fact, he volunteered at Head Start in his 90s. The little ones called him “Old MacDonald” and sang the song.

John Gordon MacDonald is survived by his daughter Diane Barz (Dan) of Polson, Montana; son Darrell (Elaine) of Olympia, Washington; and daughter JoAnn Westerbeck (John) of Antioch, California; and four grandchildren, Nicole MacDonald Parker of Reno, Nevada; Scott MacDonald of Rochester, Minnesota; Rocky Barz (Jana) of Billings, Montana; and Kirsten Westerbeck of Antioch, California; and two great-grandchildren, Jacob MacDonald and Brendan Barz. He is also survived by one nephew, Donald Lockhart (Pat) of Grandin, North Dakota, a grand-niece, Dr. Kelly Lockhart, and two grand-nephews Sam and Ross. He was preceded in death by Bernice in 2006, his parents, two sisters Ruth Lockhart and Margaret Boyd, and one brother William Maurice who died in World War II.

Memorial Services are scheduled at the Fremont Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 17, 2010, at 2:00 PM. Memorials are suggested to the Fremont Presbyterian Church Organ Fund, 5770 Carlson Ave., Sacramento, California, 95819; or Loaves and Fishes, 1321 North C Street, Sacramento, California 95811; or your local Food Bank.

Funeral Home:
East Lawn Elk Grove Memorial Park and Mortuary
9189 E. Stockton Boulevard
Elk Grove, CA
US 95624


  • Bill and Maryellen Jacobson says:

    Our deepest sympathy to you all. We just found Mac’s obit. We wondered why our Christmas card came back and feared he was gone. He and Bill shared many good stories when they would meet in Rochester each year that he visited. Bill’s comment this morning when we found it was “He was really a good guy”. We all have so many good memories of Mac and if we treasure them always, he will always be near. We hope this message gets to you.

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