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Donald McNary

1923 - 2019
Donald McNary Obituary
Donald Stilwell McNary

Longtime California resident Donald Stilwell McNary died April 15 of natural causes at his home. He was 96.

McNary was born on Jan. 17, 1923, in San Francisco to J. Deter McNary and Lillian Capp. He was raised in Colusa and graduated from Colusa High School.

He recovered from polio when he was 18 and attended the University of California at Berkley. He worked in a military factory in Oakland during World War II.
His older brother David died in 1944 in a military training accident.

McNary graduated from Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in business in 1946. He was instrumental in the revival of the crew team at UC Berkeley after World War II and served as a coxswain for the squad. He was a teammate of several members of the Berkeley crew that won the eight-man rowing gold medal at the London Olympics in 1948. He was also president of Bowles Hall.

He met with wife, Louise White, in 1946 on a rooter's train to Los Angeles and they were married in 1950 in Berkeley.

Lou and Don McNary had five children born during the 1950s – David (Sharon), Jane, Nancy (David Leach), Barbara (John Spindler) and Patricia, while living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Don McNary worked as an executive in the natural gas business at Calor Gas. He was an avid airplane pilot and was the first pilot to land at the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville, Calif., in 1955.

McNary moved to Woodland in 1960. He owned and operated the liquified gas distributor Mac's Gas on Kentucky Avenue in Woodland, and in Esparto and Arbuckle, until 1965, when he sold the business and moved the family moved to Barcelona, Spain, for two years.

In 1967, McNary began work as the director of development for the UC Davis Foundation, a job that he held for nearly three decades. He was the key fundraiser for the UC Davis Recreation Center and the Robert Mondavi Center for Performing Arts.

McNary also owned a vacation home on the west shore of Lake Tahoe starting in the 1960s and backed efforts to maintain the clarity of the lake water.

McNary was a longtime member of the Woodland Rotary Club and served as president in 1976. He was an active supporter of the University of California athletics, American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts of America, the International House in Davis and the Woodland Opera House. He was a member of the Cal Alumni Council between 1998 and 2001.

The McNarys received a congratulatory letter from President Barack Obama in 2010 in honor of their 60th wedding anniversary.

He was preceded in death by his wife. He is survived by his sister Nancy of Fairfax, Calif., and by his five children and 10 grandchildren, Alex, Andrew, April, Christopher, Jennifer, James, John, Stephanie, William and William Jay; and great-granddaughters, Eloise and Rosemaire.

The family is planning a celebration of life in June. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the UC Davis Lake Tahoe Environmental Research Center at https://give.ucdavis.edu/Donate/YourGift/TERCGFT in memory of Don McNary. Checks can be mailed to UC Regents, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Apr. 21, 2019
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