Donald James "Mac" MacDonell, a longtime resident of the Vail Valley, died in mid-August, in Minturn, of natural causes. He was 59.
He is survived by his sister, Sandy DeSostoa, brother-in-law Thomas, nephew Bryce and niece Kelsey. He was predeceased by his parents, Donald and Stella May MacDonell, and brothers Alec and Mike.
Mac was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, on Feb. 14, 1953. His father, a project manager for Bechtel Corp., the famed global infrastructure builder, moved the family around the world as big jobs required. Mac lived in Germany during his elementary school years and there was introduced to the wonders of skiing in the Bavarian Alps. After middle school in Australia, he moved a continent away to Argentina for high school, where he became fluent in Spanish but, more importantly, fell in love with the beautiful game, soccer. It was a passion that would never leave him.
Mac attended Bucknell University and earned a B.S. in accounting in 1975. He was a first-choice fullback on the Bisons' East Coast Conference championship teams, and his teammates can still recall his outstanding play in NCAA tournaments. Mac was famously known for his utter disinterest in fitness drills and his total commitment to playing soccer the right way.
He was small in stature, but his fluid technical skills more than made up for his lack of size. Mac played soccer for most of his life, always the football purist, and as a coach, he would pass his love of the beautiful game on to many young players in the valley.
Mac moved to Vail in the late 1970s along with his college friends Harry Gray and Doug Byren. He worked for Phillips and Associates, as well as a number of restaurants in town. As a skier, he was a dynamic bundle of energy. His ski tips pointed downhill nearly all the time; turns were optional. Mac was also an iconoclast. He loved his friends, he appreciated life, but he couldn't just hang with the crowd all the time, occasionally heeding a need to withdraw.
"He was passionate, caring, sensitive and complicated," said Dr. Gary Toubman, one of his college teammates.
No wonder Mac felt the call of the backcountry and gradually spent more of his ski time there. Perhaps because of his global upbringing, Mac was not one to settle down in one place forever. In 1998, he moved to Charlotte, N.C., to work for Time Warner Cable as a systems engineer. He was a good one, too, and he won an employee of the year award. He returned to the valley in 2008 to reboot and renew his passion for skiing. He found a home with the landscaping firm Johnie's Garden, owned by his friend John Rosenfeld.
Mac will be celebrated in song and word - and strong drink - at a memorial celebration to be held at Kirby Cosmo's in Minturn on Thursday at 6 p.m. His cremains will be returned to the backcountry, a place where he found so much solace in his life.