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William McDonald ’53

December 18, 2018, in Milwaukie, Oregon.

An icon of Milwaukie and the Clackamas County area, Bill passed away on his 93rd birthday at his home with loved ones by his side. He was born in Colchester, England, to a family that was not wealthy, but his extreme intelligence provided an opportunity to attend private school on scholarship. In 1940, at age 14, he and his younger sister, Fay, crossed the Atlantic to escape the bombings in England, landing in New York and then traveling to Portland by train. They were sponsored by a local Milwaukie couple, the Fetchlands. His loving parents paid for the voyage and keep with their very limited funds, and Bill worked jobs as well. It was a hard childhood that he accepted without complaint.

After graduating from Milwaukie High School, he served five years in the U.S. military, including the 17th Infantry of the U.S. Army in Okinawa and Korea. After two years, he enlisted in the air force and served in Bavaria with the First Radio Relay Squadron. Bill was forever scarred by his service, but like many of that brave generation, he did not share much. It was a duty to the new country that became his home. While serving in Bavaria, he met Christa Stelzmann, who became his wife. She had escaped from the Nazis and Russians in what was East Germany. They built a wonderful life and enjoyed 45 years together before her death in 1994.

Following his military service, Bill entered Reed when he was 24 years old.  After two years, he transferred to the College of Law at Willamette University. He worked for Ticor Title until 1959, when he began his lifelong career as a private practice attorney in Milwaukie, retiring in late 2017. His next chapter of life started near the time he started his law practice, when Christa gave birth to twin girls—only one baby had been expected.

Bill’s civic duties began as a youth in DeMolay. He served as president of the Clackamas Bar Association and on the boards for the Ledding Library, Friends of the Milwaukie Center, and the Providence Milwaukie Foundation. Active in the Lions Club, the Elks Lodge, the Milwaukie Historical Society, and the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce, he represented North Clackamas Schools in the early ’70s. He was honored with the Irwin Adams Lifetime Achievement award and elected as a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow.

Bill’s last years were spent at Glenmoore Retirement, where he made many good friends and enjoyed activities provided. He was a brilliant, stoic man with a loving heart, hardworking, honest, and with a dash of impatience for ignorance. He is survived by his twin daughters, Margaret Sheldon and Christine Larson, and his special friend, Wilda Parks.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2019

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