Macdonald, Alister

Published: 
Friday, March 16, 2012

Alister Richmond Macdonald, age 79 years, passed away peacefully at TBRHSC on Tuesday March 13, 2012. Born on December 22, 1932, he grew up on Donald Street with his parents until age 3. They moved to Paisley, Scotland for a brief stay, before returning to live in Fort William. Although he was oversees for only a short time, he returned to Canada as a wee lad with a charming Scottish accent. This led to a life-long passion for the Scottish heritage. He may have lost this accent in the following years, but continued a family tradition by joining the Fort William Pipe Band at the age of 9. His father, Alister Sr., was a drummer in this band, but insisted that Al learn the pipes. Unfortunately, Alister Sr. passed away, leaving behind his bride Rachael and young son Al, who was only 12. Given this unfortunate circumstance, Al joined the work force at an early age, and developed an incredible work ethic. Even before he had a legal license, he was driving a truck for Coca-Cola in Thunder Bay. He moved on to work at Marathon Pulp and Paper, and then at the local grain elevators. Eventually, Al landed a job driving a truck for Lakehead Wholesalers. Given his charming personality and gift of the gab, he swiftly worked his way up to being sales manager and part owner. Over his 30+ years involvement with Lakehead Wholesalers, he not only sold 'ice cubes to Eskimos,' but sold to local businesses and spent many hours on the road throughout Northern Ontario, particularly the North Shore of Lake Superior. As a result, he cultivated many life-long friends, many of whom he kept in touch with, even after his retirement in 1985. Despite long work weeks, Al enjoyed married life with his devoted wife Muriel of 56 years, and his four children. As a family, they enjoyed camping and fishing trips, particularly up to Blue Lake and Sibley. Later years, Al and Muriel enjoyed summer traveling in their fifth wheel throughout North America. He was an enthusiastic member of the Fort William Curling Club, eventually skipping his own team in the men's and mixed leagues. As he got older, Muriel 'demoted him to the Go Slow League.' Here he relished 'spending time with the guys', kibitzing over beers after the game. If not at the curling club, Al could be found at the coffee club with his 'business friends,' solving all the world's problems! Al joined the Kam Lodge AF&AM on March 31, 1964. He proficiently earned all three degrees of the Masonic Order, and was very proud when he became Master of the Lodge. He enjoyed helping other Masons in earning their degrees and in the charitable efforts of the Masonic organization. Outside of his family, Al's true passion in life was playing and teaching the highland bagpipe. As mentioned above, he joined the Fort William Pipe Band at the age of 9. Given his proficient musical talent and drive, he was voted in as Pipe Major by his fellow bandsmen at the young age of 24. As Pipe Major, to 'loosely sum it up,' his duty was to lead the band, . and lead he did! Over the years, his dedication was tantamount in establishing the Fort William Pipe Band (later to become THE Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay in 1970) as one of the most respected pipe bands in North America. Al lead the band to celebrated performances in several well-known parades, including the Tournament of Roses and the Grey Cup, just to name a few. During the band's tour of Scotland in 1967, he was introduced to and piped for Queen Elizabeth II, who forever after he referred to as 'Liz.' In almost 30 years as Pipe Major, with members affectionately referring to him as "Uncle Al", dozens of victories came their way in highland games competitions across North America. Not only was Al a great leader but he was also a fantastic teacher of the instrument. For decades, he dedicated 2 nights a week to help teach students and run the band without ever charging a nickel. This helped keep the ranks full of proficient players, some of whom have gone on to perform with the world's best pipe bands. It is important to note here that Al could never have done all this acting alone. For a number of years he worked together with a Co-Pipe Major. One such standout was fellow piper and good friend, Rod MacLennan. It is because of Rod and the tireless efforts of a fantastic band executive, that together they achieved monumental heights for the band. With the passing of Honorary Pipe Band Chieftain 'Big Don' Macdonald, both Rod and Al were honored by being appointed Co-band Chieftains in 2003. Even with his chronic lung disease, Al continued to teach students piping right up to the fall of 2011. Al was proud to be honored by the City of Thunder Bay for 50 years of community service to the pipe band. It's because of ongoing dedication of band members such as Al, that THE Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay will be hosting its 100th anniversary celebration this coming August long weekend. We know Al will be there in spirit and in the hearts and minds of all that attend. Alister was a stellar representative of the pipe band's motto "Proud of the Past, Dedicated to the Future." Alister is survived by his family, Muriel, Kathy/Jeano, Jackie, Peter/Carol and relatives in Thunder Bay, California and overseas. Al was predeceased by his son Alan in 1989. Our family wishes to thank Dr. Bukovy (Spence Clinic), Ashley Flello, R.N. (Bayshore Home Health) and Dr. Biman and the staff of St. Joseph's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. Special thanks also goes to the St. Elizabeth home care workers and the fantastic staff of TBRHSC who looked after Al, and supported the family for the past several years. Cremation and private family internment have taken place. Funeral service and Masonic ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 17, 2012 at First Presbyterian Church, 629 Grey Street in Thunder Bay at 2:00 p.m. A reception will follow the services at the Da Vinci Centre. If friends so desire, charitable donations can be made to St. Joseph's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, the Canadian Lung Association or THE Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay.

Online condolences may be made through
www.nwfainc.com

Macdonald, Alister

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