‘Mac’ McDonald was a ‘fireman’s fireman’
Dedicated firefighter and family man John McDonald was rarely ever called by his first name. Instead, by the many people in his life, he was “Johnny Mac,” “Mac,” or “Mac Daddy.”
Last Friday, McDonald’s 40 years of service with the Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department ended unexpectedly when he passed away while on duty in his station at Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington.
McDonald, 54, served as Battalion Chief at Naval District Washington Fire and Emergency Services Central Division, but began his career in Stafford County as a junior firefighter in 1974.
A life member of the Stafford Volunteer Fire Department, McDonald served in every operational capacity over the decades, including Fire Chief. He also served as Volunteer Battalion Chief for Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department at the time of his death.
In his early years, he met fellow junior firefighter Curt Alvis, the current president of the Stafford Volunteer Fire Department.
As a firefighter, Johnny Mac was always there for the tight-knit “band of brothers,” at the courthouse station, Alvis said.
As the volunteer fire chief, Johnny Mac was always calm, collected and able to communicate what he needed to the right people, Alvis said.
“When your leader is calm, so too are the fire fighters,” he said.
Johnny Mac was also “one heck of an instructor,” Alvis said. “He just had that ability to teach others.”
McDonald’s daughter Katie Supples, 27, also remembered her father’s teaching style. If you didn’t know something, she said, he would help understand “without making you feel bad.”
He also was able to easily calm fears, Supples said. “He had a way of soothing people just through speaking.”
While his career demanded long shifts at the fire station, he was always devoted to his wife and two daughters.
“When we look back on the memories of our lives, there are no gaps,” Supples said.
His younger daughter Ashley McDonald, 24, said her father always made time for monthly lunch dates, regardless of where she was.
“That was really special for me,” she said.
In 35 years of marriage, McDonald often took his wife, Teresa, on motorcycle rides, once traveling to several states to find the best of the best steak, seafood and Southern cooking.
McDonald also spent time collaborating with Supples to create beverage holders from durable rope. They formed their own company, The Beer and Lasso Co. LLC.
The two spent time pitching their product and selling them at shows where complete strangers were always drawn to McDonald, Supples said. “If he would leave the table or go to the bathroom, people would always ask where he was,” she said.
LIVING TO RIDE
With a passion for motorcycles, McDonald also served as vice president of the Fire and Iron motorcycle club, Station 161. “Mac Daddy,” as he was called by the group, was the one everyone turned to for advice about motorcycles, riding techniques and safety issues.
“For him, safety was always first,” said David Jarrell, who spoke for the group.
The club planned to ride to Chicago this weekend for a national rally, but they canceled the trip after McDonald’s untimely death.
However, in his memory, Jarrell and another club member rode to Chicago last Saturday. “We made the ride for him. It was a tribute to him.”
“Mac,” Jarrell said, was “bigger than life. Mac never knew a stranger, because everybody he met, he became friends with. I mean thousands of people.”
Since McDonald, who served in the Navy, traveled extensively, “now we have extended family in places like South Dakota and North Dakota because Mac introduced us to his friends, who then became our friends,” Jarrell said.
Dealing with his loss has been tough for the group, Jarrell said. “I can tell you that his loss has devastated our station.”
Friends, family and firemen have memories of the generous, courageous man who could always make them laugh.
Paul Lof, a life member of the Stafford Volunteer Fire Department, called McDonald one of the most well-respected leaders in the department.
“He’s a fireman’s fireman,” Lof said.
Regina Weiss 540/374-5444
A funeral service will be held
at 11:30 a.m. today at Mount Ararat Baptist Church, 1112 Garrisonville Road and burial with honors will follow at 2 p.m. at Quantico National Cemetery.
The Stafford Sheriff’s Office will escort the procession, but traffic will be affected in these areas:
Courthouse Road west to Shelton Shop Road between 9:15 and 10:15 a.m.
Garrisonville Road from the 1100 block east to U.S. 1 between 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m.
The intersection of Garrisonville Road and U.S. 1 North to Joplin Road between 1:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.