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On Sunday, August 2, Neil Robert MacDonald passed away at the age of 76. Neil was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, and is himself greatly loved.
Neil was born on April 25, 1944, and was raised in the small beach town of Saco in Southern Maine, where some of his earliest memories were of blueberries, clams, and lobsters. An only child, he moved with his parents for his dad’s job to Sanford, NC in the ninth grade, and graduated as a letterman in baseball and football from Sanford Central High School in 1962. Those who came to know Neil as an adult would not be surprised at the “industrious” part of the “Quiet but Industrious” label in his yearbook, but most would agree he largely left behind the “quiet.”
Neil proceeded to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Tar Heels) in 1966, kicking off a 36-year career in Education. Neil went on to receive a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in 1968 and his Advanced Principal’s and Advanced Superintendent’s certificate in 1975—both from UNC as well.
On June 26, 1966, Neil married his college sweetheart (also from Sanford), Carolyn Rosser, after a courtship involving countless love letters and weekend trips to see her at UNC Greensboro. Neil and Carolyn went on to do an excellent job raising two children, Scott and Kristie.
Many colleagues and students remember Neil fondly from his long career with the Lee County Schools, which began as a teacher at Jonesboro Middle School and came to include the role of principal at Bragg Street Elementary, principal at Warren Williams Elementary, and assistant principal at Greenwood Elementary. Along the way, Neil also spent a number of years teaching Driver Education. In 2002, Neil retired from Greenwood.
Outside his career, Neil also dedicated his life to his church and his community. In the 1970s and 1980s, he held several roles within the Optimist Club, including president, helping lead the organization of the Deep River-Northview Optimists. After joining Shallow Well United Church of Christ upon his marriage to Carolyn, Neil served the church in numerous capacities. At the time of his passing, Neil was a choir member, Sunday School teacher, a Deacon, and a member of the pastoral search committee. He was also a driver for Highway to Healing, which takes those without transportation to their cancer treatments. Neil took particular pride in serving as editor of the self-published book of biographical stories Walk in e’ Moon by LaVerne Thornton.
In addition to the dedication and organization Neil brought to his commitments, he was known for his sense of humor, sometimes witty and sometimes silly, and regularly both. He enjoyed hanging out with friends in his ROMEO breakfast group on Tuesdays and the St. Luke’s prayer breakfast on Wednesdays. He especially looked forward to his annual tour of Major League games in the summer, and visiting with his children and grandchildren. A perfect day for Neil would involve blueberry pancakes for breakfast before fast walking several miles in the morning, a coffee milkshake after mowing grass in the afternoon, reading a chapter from Lord of the Rings with his grandson in the evening, and talking with God before bed. A Carolina victory that day would be a bonus.
Neil was preceded in death by his father, Howard, and his mother, Alberta. He is survived by his wife Carolyn, his son Scott (Mina), his daughter Kristie Gutierrez (Giovanni), his grandson Elliott, and his grandson Gianni. A graveside service will be held at 11:00am on Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 at Shallow Well Church. Social distancing with masks will be observed. In lieu of flowers, donations or memorial contributions may be made to Shallow Well Church—1220 Broadway Road, Sanford, NC 27332.
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