Malcolm MacLean laughed often, loved much
|By Colin MacKenzie - Acting editor | May 20, 2016|
When Malcolm MacLean saw a need he was the first in line to help.
Crawling under a sound board at Canoe FM to fix a wire, catering events at the Minden Legion, teaching kids about paddling, serving as a charity auctioneer, his was a life of nonstop good-humoured activity.
That life came to an end last week as the 65-year-old succumbed to esophageal cancer.
The former teacher and principal leaves a broad legacy in Haliburton County.
President of Canoe FM, former president of the Minden Legion, a Rotarian and all-round volunteer, MacLean was a highly visible member of the community with his bushy beard and pony tail. And his prominence was heightened by his weekly radio show.
“When he saw something needed doing he would dabble at it and then if he could help he’d jump in with both feet,” said John Neving, a brother-in-law and friend for 19 years.
MacLean was a welcome addition to every organization.
“He certainly earned my respect in a hurry,” said Roger Dart, the radio station treasurer who joined the board 18 months ago. “He was the leader and a very good one.”
MacLean was born in Glasgow in 1950 to Len and Nan MacLean. The family emigrated to Toronto in 1953 and MacLean grew up in East York and Scarborough.
After attending the University of Guelph and getting his teaching certificate he joined the Scarborough Board of Education.
Along the way he spent three years on secondment to the main Canadian Forces base in Germany where he taught and spent his spare time touring Europe with his family in his beloved Volkswagen van.
After his return, he served as the director of the Scarborough board’s outdoor learning centre in Kearney, on the west edge of Algonquin Park.
Back in the city he served as a principal until his retirement.
By that time, he had married Lee, his wife and constant companion in his volunteer activities.
MacLean’s brother Gordon had a cottage on Kushog Lake, and Malcolm had been a frequent visitor, and the couple bought a cottage on Big Brother Lake, a secluded spot north of Hall’s Lake. And this became their base when they retired.
One of MacLean’s first projects was the Minden Legion, where he helped recruit new members, oversaw renovations, often pitching in to build display cases himself.
He initiated and acted as chef for the Legion’s popular Friday night fish fries.
So it was more than appropriate that his memorial service last Saturday, which drew more than 100 people, was staged there.
For the last seven years MacLean’s focus was Canoe FM, first on-air and then as a board member and president. He had an appetite for technology and was always on the lookout for new broadcast and sound equipment along with the grant money to pay for it.
The human touch, however, is what station staff and volunteers were the first to mention in conversations this week. He was a gentle coach to new volunteers, and a wise voice around the boardroom table.
“Such a gentleman, warm, funny and smart,” said station manager Roxanne Casey.
He was all of those things said Gord MacLean this week. But not beyond offering a bit of brotherly fashion advice back in the hippie era, Gord recalled at the service last weekend.
Malcolm adopted the styles of the times, wore the ponytail and even made his own belts and other leather goods. An admiring Gord tried to follow suit, but his brother warned him off.
“Sorry Gord, but you just look like a rich kid slumming it,” he said.
“That ended my hippie days,” Gord told the crowd.
Beyond his brother, and sister Marian, MacLean is survived by his son Shawn, and former wives Bernadine and Heather.
Gord MacLean’s eulogy
Hello, my name is Gord MacLean, Malcolm’s brother. It is an honour and privilege for me to pay tribute to a very special person; Malcolm MacLean.
On behalf of Lee, Malcolm’s wife, I welcome you and thank you for coming.
Malcolm was a remarkable person in so many ways. He lived his life to the fullest and touched many people during his time here with us, as evident by the numbers present today and those who have expressed condolences to his family.
Malcolm was born in Scotland and along with our parents, Nan and Len MacLean, our family emigrated to Canada in 1953 to the borough of East York, in a comfortable house on Virginia Avenue. Even in those days, there always seemed to be a bit of extra cash for summer vacations at a cottage on Bass Lake near Orillia.
Malcolm, Marian and I loved that week or two of intense summer living – fishing, swimming,
horseshoes, chipping golf balls back and forth – just being together with Mom and Dad.
Perhaps it was those years that instilled a love of the outdoors in Malcolm that lasted throughout his life.
We moved to Scarborough in 1965. We were at an age when we had endless ‘discussions’ around the Sunday dinner table at our house on Brimley Road.
Dad would bait us on and our Mother would have to leave the room. Loud voices, verbal jabs, prodding and cajoling, always ended with a 'maybe you’re right' and a peaceful end.
I think this is where Malcolm honed his verbal skills and his ability to compromise.
In many ways he was a lot like my Dad, he loved a good a debate and conversation and the chance to add his own bit of wisdom and wit to the mix.
It’s funny the small things that come to mind when you think of someone. A couple of stories jump out when I think of Malcolm... In our single years, we took a great trip together.
In the waning years of hippies, long hair, beards, wacky tobaccy and scruffy jeans; Malcolm, a friend and I decided to head out west to see Banff and Jasper national parks. We loaded the station wagon with food and beverages and took off.
We decided that peeing out the open back window could save us a lot time.
I will always remember Malcolm shouting at me as I took my turn – Gord watch out for the blow back!
That trip cemented the friendship Malcolm and I had for so many years.
Malcolm always liked to dress like a bit of a hippie. He liked a ponytail and he was very creative and made his own belts and other leather attire. I thought he was fairly cool looking and tried to emulate him, but as Malcolm always said – "sorry, Gord , but you just look like a rich kid slumming it."
That ended my hippie days.
Malcolm had many talents and always had a love of music. He played the guitar and mandolin, and sang his favourite songs quite well. He shared his passion for music with his son Shawn, who now lives in London,Ont., and is still in the music business.
After attending university and teacher’s college, Malcolm taught for the Scarborough Board of Education.
As his teaching career progressed Malcolm took an opportunity to move to Germany for three years and teach at one of the Canadian Armed forces schools for children of servicemen. While there Malcolm and his family took many trips in his VW van around the countries of Europe to explore their history and culture.
Malcolm went on to take a position as Director of the Scarborough Board’s Outdoor Education Centre – Camp
Kearney. He had a wealth of practical information about nature and loved taking the visiting students and teachers on canoe and field trips into the wilderness.
Our family got to have Christmas with him up at the camp and experience what he was so proud to be part of.
Malcolm also became a school principal; and a colleague wrote that as a principal the re were few better than Malcolm, and that staff and students enjoyed him, liked him, and – above all – respect ed him. I think this says so much about his career in education and the impact he had on those around him.
Malcolm married his soulmate Lee more than 19 years ago.
They retired up to our beautiful Haliburton Highlands.
Malcolm never stopped contributing and giving back to our community.
Lee shared in much of his work and was never far from his side.
His work and continuous energy at the Legion as member and president, Friday fish and chips cook, catering along with Lee, and helping to improve the facility amazed us. When he joined Canoe FM as an on-¬air host and later became President, we again marveled at his dedication and enthusiasm.
The show which he co¬hosted with Lee was well known around the county, and their teamwork impressed all.
Malcolm’s work at the Bluegrass Festival and the Rotary club are also well known. He was a great Loonie auctioneer at fundraising events. I am proud when people ask if I am Malcolm’s brother. They tell me how they loved working with him, or how much they enjoyed his radio shows and his knowledge of the music he loved.
Malcolm enjoyed many good times in his years with Lee. The wine buying trips to Niagara on the Lake; the winter holidays to Florida and Myrtle Beach; the annual family golf tournaments; and just being together at their cottage on Big Brother Lake.
During his last months, Lee cared for my brother well and gave him much comfort and love.
In closing, the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said of success in life:
To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent persons
and the affection of children;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a little better;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
and sung with exaltation;
To know that even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived,
This is to have succeeded.
I think our Malcolm succeeded with honours!
We will miss his compassion and spirited approach to life, and the love he shared with those around him, and of course his wonderful sense of humour.
Please join me in a toast.
To a wonderful husband, father, brother, uncle; and friend to many – may you rest in peace and know you were loved:
JENNIFER HUGHEY is the editor for The Highlander.