Robert (Bob) McDonald was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 16, 1931 to mother Ann and father George. He passed away in Reno, Nevada on May 8, 2023 from an acute, aggressive form of cancer. He was preceded in death by his younger sister Jean and his oldest son Bobby. He is survived by his wife Wendy, sons David and Timothy (to their late mother Marianne), nieces Sharon and Susan and their families, and many other caring relatives and friends.
Bob grew up poor during the Great Depression but never saw life as unfair. Like many who grew up then, he accepted life as he found it, and he never valued material things beyond the function they served or the pleasure they gave. He was blessed with a wonderful mother, a baby sister to watch over, and generous relatives who helped the young family during the hardest times. They lived at times in Chicago IL, Ottumwa IA, Port Orchard WA, and with relatives in the Midwest. His father, an itinerant telegrapher, found work at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard during WWII. The family lived in Chabot Terrace, a wartime defense housing project in Vallejo. Bob spent hours (when not in school or working odd jobs) hunting squirrels with his buddies on Hunters’ Hill, graduated from Vallejo High School, and worked various jobs before enlisting in the military.
Bob’s early love of airplanes and flying led him to join the USAF in 1951, where he trained and worked on aircraft at bases throughout the U.S. After being honorably discharged, he attained his electrical engineering degree from the University of Detroit. He had an interesting 40-year career as an engineer and manager in aerospace and defense, primarily on radar systems at North American Aviation and Rockwell International in Southern California, with long-term field assignments to support air bases such as Plattsburgh, Cannon, and McClellan. Bob was also a private pilot and mightily enjoyed flying short jaunts for what he called “$100 hamburgers,” taking aerobatic and high speed flying lessons, and treating friends and family to scenic flights in Cessna 172s.
Bob loved outdoor adventure and just being in nature—scuba diving in the Caribbean; skiing slopes all around the country and into Canada; hiking mountain, desert, and seaside trails; target and clay shooting at outdoor ranges; camping; sky and star and ocean gazing; scouting and hunting for deer, antelope, pheasants, turkeys, and other game; jogging and walking the dog; and exploring American byroads and towns, national and state parks, and the back country in a series of Toyota pickups.
Bob was a lifelong reader, mostly history, true stories, and autobiographies. He was curious and interested in many things, smart, funny, and endlessly kind. Bob’s varied interests led him to become knowledgeable in many fields and an amateur collector. You never could predict what would grab his fancy next—scales, custom knives, “rusty things,” watches, eclectic memorabilia. And books and artwork…always books and artwork, often related to nature, flight, and the old west. Our Reno home, where we lived happily for the past ten years, is filled with beauty, meaning, and memory.
Bob liked western and action-adventure movies (but not sad endings), attending live theater musicals, afternoon tea, coffee by the fire on a cold winter morning, auctions and antique stores, anything hand crafted of leather or walnut, vintage firearms, western and southwest art and jewelry, and a good steak or burger with a Stella beer.
Bob liked to give presents and donate to worthy causes. He lived a life of patriotism for his country and felt compassion for all fellow citizens. He worried about our future, not understanding how people could turn differences and disagreements into hate and destruction. He was a religious man, a Catholic, but not a churchgoing man. Earlier disappointments kept him from the church, but never from his faith.
Bob deeply missed his beloved mother Ann, sister Jean, son Bobby, and “our favorite dog” Teddy, and those friends and family members who went before him. And he is deeply missed by me, his wife and 40-year life companion, his two surviving sons, and the loved ones who remain behind. As people he knew learned of Bob’s death, their response has been to say that he was the nicest, the kindest man they had ever met. He was a man of honor and integrity and always kept his word. And he almost always “wore a smile,” even as he bravely faced and overcame some devastating medical challenges, until this final one that ended his earthly life. He told family gathered at his bedside, “God decides. We don’t decide, God decides.”
There are so many good people to list for remembrance that I cannot name them all…David and Timothy, he loved being father to you and Bobby. Hold him in your heart, he will guide you. Susan and Sharon, Uncle Bob loved you as your mother’s daughters and for the beautiful women, wives, and mothers you are. Gerry, friend since junior high, your parents were like parents to him, too, and your hunting trips and the times at Casey Flats were some of the happiest of Bob’s life. Dan, as a like minded friend and skeet shooting companion, Bob looked forward to your time together and the laughter you shared as you solved the world’s problems over a beer. Roberto, Bob was grateful for your being both friend and hunting advisor and guide and proudly displayed photos and trophies of successful hunts.
Bob’s in-laws (Wendy’s & Marianne’s families), he treasured how you were part of each others’ families and the experiences and love shared over many decades. And so many other friends and loved ones (some no longer with us), friends across time and space, Bob fondly recalled the times you spent together, sharing adventures, stories, laughter, and a few tears. Your care, presence, and friendship were always felt, always cherished. Drs. Reganti, Arekapudi, Shuff, Gilles, Owens, Stevenson, APRN Aiyuk, the oncology nurses and staff at CCS and Renown, and the great Reno therapists, thank you for your compassionate care.
A memorial service will be held at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley on Friday, September 1 at 2:00, followed by a gathering to share stories and memories in celebration of Bob’s life. (Numbers 6:24-26)