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George Douglas MacKenzie

Public school administrator, active church member, loving grandfather

George Douglas MacKenzie died Thursday, November 30 after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was a longtime active Claremont resident and a 55-year member of Claremont United Church of Christ.

A celebration of his life will take place at the Claremont UCC Church, 233 Harrison Ave., on Saturday, December 16 at 11 a.m.

He was born December 1, 1929, in Santa Rosa, California to Clarence and Dorothy MacKenzie. After graduating Analy High School in Sebastopol, Mr. Mackenzie attended UC Berkeley, where he met Barbara, his wife of 64 years.

Mr. MacKenzie joined the US Air Force in 1951. As an air traffic controller, he was stationed on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. After his military service, he completed his education at UC Santa Barbara and began his teaching career in Hemet. During this time, he earned a master’s in education at Claremont Graduate School.

In 1961, Doug, Barbara and the budding family moved to the Montclair/ Claremont area where Mr. MacKenzie continued his 33-year career as an elementary teacher and administrator with the Pomona Unified School District. He taught at San Jose and Lincoln Elementary Schools.

For several years, he was head of the gifted and talented program for the school district and served as the president of the teachers association. Longtime friend Ron Evans said, “So many children and youth have had the benefit of his teaching and teaching by example.”

Mr. MacKenzie and his wife joined the Claremont United Church of Christ in 1962, and have been active members ever since. He was church historian for many years and an expert on the art of the church, with a photographic memory of every nook and cranny of the large facility. He also served as chair of the Christian education committee, co-chair of the Christmas Workshop and member of the sustainability committee.

“He was such a generous, knowledgeable and loyal friend, not to mention a pillar of the church,” wrote his friends Tom Helliwell and Bonnie Busenberg.

Mr. MacKenzie was a founding member of the Claremont UCC Bell Choir and sang in the Sanctuary Choir for a number of years.

“Doug was a charter member of our bell choir and for over 40 years he has been an inspiring example to all of us,” Lee Waggener, co-director of the Bell Choir shared. “Generous is not really a comprehensive enough word for him. Generous with the time he gave to help others, generous with his support of many causes, generous with his compliments, generous with his love of family and friends. He was always giving of himself. And the generosity was always accompanied by a sincere interest in everyone he encountered. His wonderful smile and positive attitude will be greatly missed by his many friends.”

In addition to his activities with the church, Mr. MacKenzie led a very active retirement, traveling widely with Barbara and friends with the Road Scholar program, participating in the Keep on Growing classes, auditing a history class at the Claremont Colleges, going to museums and the theatre, arranging flowers for the church and for many family milestone events.

“Doug was a dear church and family friend for 55 years. Along with Barbara, we shared many events, including our fellowship group and bell ringing at church,” best friends Ruby and Al Beilby said. “We shared family occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and children’s weddings. Our kids grew up together and our sons are best friends. We traveled together to places near and far, including England, Scotland and Sweden. We loved Doug for his joy in life and always being ready for new experiences. He had a love of learning and was a storehouse of information. He had a passion for music and art, which was shared in church activities. He was always willing to help with tasks, especially with clean-up. We lovingly called him ‘Mr. Clean.’ We are already missing him in our lives.”

One of his most special traits was his ability to take great delight in the simple things—from opening a birthday gift, appreciating a piece of art or spending time with a grandchild to enjoying his last bath while in hospice. He was the keeper of the family history with a fine memory for dates and names.

“I will always appreciate his support of everything we did,” his son Mark said. “When I was in theater shows, I could hear his wonderful laugh, even backstage.”

His hand touched or created many objects his family said they will treasure. Over the years, he learned copper enameling, mosaics, stained glass, furniture refinishing and building, macrame, watercolor and printmaking. He was always busy, repairing and fixing things, as his grandson Chris recalled.

“The first thing that comes to mind is a time we were at a theatre in Glendale seeing a show,” his grandson shared. “At intermission, my cousin Alex and I were sitting in our seats talking and we saw Grandpa slowly walking up to the wood fixture on the wall, looking intently at it for a little bit. He got closer and rapped on it with his knuckle, supposedly checking the material of it. Alex and I just started laughing.”

Mr. MacKenzie instilled a love of camping and outdoor adventure by taking his family on many trips throughout the western United States.

He led his life through grace, humor and love—qualities he abundantly shared with family. Upon meeting his great-grandson for the first time, he leaned in and lovingly said, “Hello, Ronan. It’s your great-grandpa speaking.” He continued to greet Ronan in this manner almost every time he saw him.

He is survived by his wife Barbara; daughter Laurie (Rick); sons Mark (Barb) and Tom (Liza); grandchildren Heather, Chris, Alex, Duncan and Kaela; and great-grandchildren Mason, J.D. and Ronan.

Gifts in Mr. MacKenzie’s memory may be made to the scholarship program of the University Club of Claremont or the music program of the Claremont United Church of Christ.