Obituary: William W. (Bill/Mac) McMakin
June 21, 1923 – May 21, 2021
Bill (Mac) McMakin, resident of Eagle, Colorado, died peacefully in his sleep on May 21, 2021 in Eagle. He was 1 month shy of his 98th birthday and passed away just 4 months after Martha, his wife of 73 years. The loss of this extraordinary couple is deeply felt.
William Wallace McMakin grew up in Hinsdale, Illinois, the 5th of 6 children born to Davis and Adeline (Robbins) McMakin. He knew from an early age that he wanted to fly. Upon graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force during WWII. He was commissioned on November 3, 1943 to October 29, 1945 in the 8th Air Force, 491st Bomber Group, 852 Squadron. He flew as Captain on B24s in the European theater. He earned the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, a Purple Heart, and the EAME Campaign Medal with 5 Bronze Service Stars. Mac only spoke of his war experience later in life though he always credited the Air Force with opening the sky for him.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
After the war, Mac, along with other Americans, Canadians, and Brits, moved to Amsterdam, Holland, to fly for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Many of these early KLM pilots and their families became lifelong friends. Through one of them, Mac met Martha Diament. Martha played a prank on Mac pretending to be Dutch, beginning a lively relationship that lasted the remainder of their lives. Mac and Martha were married on April 23, 1947, at Radnor Friends Meeting in Pennsylvania and continued to live in Amsterdam for 7 years. During that time the first two of their three children were born.
Mac bought an Army surplus jeep and he and Martha, still in their mid-20s, explored post-war Europe. He also bought a 6-meter sailboat in Rotterdam that had raced in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and learned to sail despite not knowing how to swim.
After his time with KLM, Mac and family returned to the US where their third child was born. He began flying for Seaboard World Airlines flying commercial cargo and passenger charters worldwide for 27 years. In a flying career that spanned continents and decades, Mac developed a broad reputation and was often sought after for advice. Just a few years ago, a family friend was in a bar in Shanghai, China, and overheard someone reference Seaboard World. He asked if they knew Mac McMakin. The reply was, “Hell yes! He’s the best pilot I’ve ever met.”
After Mac retired from powered flight, he bought a Grobe sail plane and became involved with Freedom’s Wings International. He helped introduce disabled people to the joy of soaring. He deeply loved his years soaring and found his work with Freedom’s Wings to be greatly rewarding.
After leaving Amsterdam, Mac and Martha subsequently lived in Greenlawn, New York; Mill Valley, California; Doylestown, Pennsylvania; and moved to Eagle, Colorado, in 2006. They lived briefly in Lakewood, Colorado in 2020, and after Martha passed away, Mac returned to Eagle.
Above all things, Mac was a man of fine character. He lived his words of honesty and integrity. He believed in an open mind, learning from mistakes, and helping others whenever possible. He believed in the infinite power of the mind and the worth and
strength of the individual. He listened. His enthusiasm for all things was contagious. He was an optimist. To him all experiences held the possibility of an opportunity for something new, and he impressed this upon his children, grandchildren, and many friends.
With his hands and ingenuity, he built a warm room out of an open porch and a guest house out of a tool shed. He camped with his family, skied, built go-carts for his children, and fixed everything from clocks to dishwashers. Mac was never static, never without thought, and always willing to try something new. He and Martha were constantly surrounded by friends, family, and laughter. He was thankful to have had the opportunity to offer help when it was needed.
Over the last few years, dementia crept into his mind, muddling time and place, and after 97 years of enjoying every bit of his life, his body gave out. Mac’s last few days were filled with gratitude and the sharing of memories. He was calm and spoke very tenderly of his love for his family and his life.
His family and those close to him are left with the cherished space he inhabited in them. We have lost a part of ourselves but we are forever thankful and stronger because of him.
Mac and Martha will be together again at Radnor Meeting in Pennsylvania where they married each other back in 1947.
Mac is survived by daughter Beth McMakin, and grandchildren Trent & Blair Ruder; son Doug McMakin and granddaughters Lindsay, Laura, and Carly, great-granddaughter Madison; and son Paul McMakin and his wife Sherry.
A memorial website for sharing memories, thoughts, and photos is available at https://www.mykeeper.com/profile/williammcmakin
Memorial contributions may be made to: George Washington’s Mount Vernon or Habitat for Humanity.