Bernard Mac Donald

Visiting Hours

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Monday, June 18, 2018
Gagnon and Costello Funeral Home
33 Reynolds Street
Danielson, Connecticut, United States

Obituary of Bernard Mac Donald

Bernard A. Mac Donald passed away June 13, 2018. He lived in Brooklyn for 50 years with his wife, Elinor (Batterson) and raised Stephen and Ann Sara there. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1925, Bernie grew up in Somerville with his parents and older brother Somerled, who emigrated from Canada. Three oldest children, all daughters, were lost in infancy and childhood. His father had been a school teacher and legislator in Prince Edward Island and became a salesman in Boston.

Bernie changed his name from Angus on his birth certificate when he joined the navy in January 1942 after Pearl Harbor and changed his birth date. He turned 17 in boot camp and shipped out to the North Atlantic on the USS Matagorda carrying a copy of Milton's Paradise Lost. He served in the South Pacific on the USS Bataan and was wounded during a kamikaze attack. He landed in Japan with the first occupying force after the Japanese surrender.  His brother Somerled served in the navy in WWII also. The once ran into each other in a South American bar on shore leave and they remained close until Somerled's death in 2006.

Bernie received a Bachelors in 1946 and Masters in 1952 from Boston University, and his PhD in English Literature from UConn in 1976.  He taught at the Hatch Prep School, The Thomas School in Connecticut and he traveled the country for the Baldridge Reading Services, based in Greenwich, CT. He met his wife Elinor in 1958 in Wisconsin while both worked for Baldridge. Six months later they were married and living in Beverly Hills, California. They settled in Brooklyn, CT in 1969. Bernie taught American literature at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic and Elinor taught psychology at Quinnebaug Valley Community College in Danielson. He and Elinor also taught in the local Brooklyn Town Jail.

The family spent every summer in Rock Barra, Prince Edward Island, Canada. He loved spending the entire summer there with a specific area of study planned and boxes of books packed in the car. One summer he read Baudelaire in French, teaching himself French along the way. One of his last projects, before he became ill in 2016, was reading Ancient Greek poetry, with a Greek dictionary at hand.

He loved literature and music, listening to the Metropolitan Opera live radio broadcast on Sundays. He loved the Red Sox, theater and talking with friends about everything from politics to poetry. He was a member of the Failed Poets Club (FPC) for many years. They shared written and artistic work, providing criticism to each other. He said once that he never gave up anything to raise his children. He was true to himself and his love of learning. He delighted in his children's endeavors as they went into the world, providing a sounding board and support when needed. A friend said he was like a fine wine, he got sweeter as he got older. He was radically egalitarian and a feminist. He hated hubris and did not suffer fools. Bernie was not afraid to say what he thought, even if others would not agree. He was monstrously intelligent but was never condescending, treating all with respect and dignity.

The family would like to thank the staff at Pierce Memorial Baptist Home who cared for Bernie for the last two years. They are indebted to every staff member for their skilled and gentle care.  He will be missed for his intelligent blue eyes and his humor. He leaves behind his wife of 60 years, Elinor of Brooklyn, CT; his son, Stephen A. (Karen Bate) of Arlington, VA and his daughter A. Sara (Rob Barnett) of Summit, NJ; grandchildren Catherine (Thomas Nash) of Richmond, VA, Amanda of Austin, TX; Julia Barnett of Harvey Cedars, NJ; Dylan Barnett and Jessie of Summit, NJ. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you send donations in Bernie's name to PEN America supporting their mission to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Visiting hours are on Monday, June 18, 2018 from 4:00 to 6:00 PM at the Gagnon and Costello Funeral Home, 33 Reynolds St. Danielson, CT.  Share a memory

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