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WWII veteran valued heritage, travel

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OBIT, obits, Obituary: James J. McDonald, 102, of Ross died Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

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By Megan Harris
Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Jim McDonald grew up on a farm in Canada, worked his way through college during the Depression and started a business to support a wife and four children — all in the first few decades of a very long life.

James J. McDonald of Ross died Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. He was 102.

“My dad was the American dream,” said Belinda Redpath, who lived across the street from her father. “He was proud of his heritage, of his accomplishments as an American and a Canadian.”

Another daughter and next-door neighbor, Claire Henke, laughed with her sister.

“Mostly, he was proud to be a Scotsman,” she said.

The Army chose Mr. McDonald, a strong, stubborn disciplinarian, for officer training when the attacks on Pearl Harbor prompted his enlistment. He served as a captain and domestic munitions instructor during World War II, perfecting on bomb detonators the mechanical skills he used years later as owner of McDonald Heating and Air Conditioning Co. in Ross.

When he sold the company in 1976, he focused his energy on managing rental properties and maintaining active memberships in Clan Donald USA, the Elks Club and the American Legion. An avid hunter and fisherman, he competed in target shooting well into his 80s before his eyesight deteriorated.

“But even that didn't stop him,” Redpath said.

In a century of travel, Mr. McDonald wound his way onto every continent but Antarctica, walking the length of the Great Wall of China at 85.

“If I were a young man, I would emigrate to New Zealand,” he told his daughters, dubbing it the most beautiful place he'd ever seen.

“He was one of the most graceful, kind, honorable men,” said his caregiver and friend, LynnDee Henc. “He always put others before himself.”

“He used to say he had good genes,” Redpath said. “He was vibrant right up to the end.”

In addition to his daughters, Claire and Belinda, Mr. McDonald is survived by a daughter, Kathleen Gerken of Dallas; a sister, Anna Hemsted of Ontario, Canada, and four grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Bernice C. McDonald, and a son, Rory Alan McDonald.

Visitation is from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in T.B. Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway, North Hills, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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