Emmett Don McFarland passed away on Jan. 9, 2020, at the age of 86, less than three months from his 87th birthday. He was born at home on April 2, 1933, in the small Southern California town of Coarsegold to Josephine (Nanny) and Theodore (Packy) McFarland.
He is preceded in death by his parents, brother Earl, sister Betty, son Michael, and on Oct. 2, 2020, his son Ronald, who was born on Father's Day. He is survived by his wife Roberta, of more than 67 years; daughters, Debra, Diane and Elaine; sons, Douglas and Jeffery; grandchildren, Kesey, Dylan and Katherine; stepgrandchildren, Kalyn and Rachel; daughters-in-law, Carleen and Rochelle; and dog Abby.
Emmett grew up in Coarsegold and went to Sierra High School where in study hall he met Roberta Strunk. They married on March 15, 1952, in Reno, Nevada. They were just 17 and 18 years old.
They then moved to Ukiah. Emmett drove to Fort Brag each day, where he worked running a skidder and falling timber. Housing being scarce, he would leave very early in the morning to drive the hour's distance to work. From there the couple moved back to Coarsegold.
On Feb. 25 of 1953, Emmett and his best friend, Jack Douty, (who remained a lifelong friend) enlisted in the U.S. Navy together. They then trained together at boot camp in San Diego. It was the end of the Korean War.
Emmett's first commission was at Point Mugu, where he patrolled the beach, riffle in hand, guarding the missile base. Emmett went on to serve on a Navy destroyer, the USS Southerland, #743, in the 7th fleet.
He was a gunner's mate, and in his off time, first a laundry man, then the ship's barber. Their mission was to guard the naval carriers, the Southerland being heavily armed with guns to protect from attack by air and surface and depth chargers and torpedoes from submarines. The USS Southerland was also one of the first naval ships to be equipped with radar. It fought in WWII, the Korean War, and then later, in Vietnam, being awarded stars in each.
While at sea, his first child was born, Debra Donn, named after him. She was 3 months old when he first saw her. He was able to see his second child, Diane Lynn, the day she was born for just a short while before he had to leave to ship out again, gone to sea, six months at a time.
Emmett's overseas missions took him to the waters off Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and elsewhere. His home port was San Diego. He often shipped out from Treasure Island, the U.S. naval base off the coast of San Francisco, which was the major Navy departure and receiving point in the Pacific. Emmett served his country honorably for four years and then another four years in the Naval reserve.
After Emmett's service in the Navy, the family lived in Coarsegold before moving to Salinas. They settled in Spreckels, a small community three miles from Salinas, where Emmett worked at the Spreckels sugar beet factory running heavy equipment. He also had a firewood cutting business and was a volunteer fireman for Spreckels. It was during this time the rest of his children, Ronald Jay, Michael Henry, Douglas Earl, Jeffery Emmett and Elaine Roberta, were born.
Hoping to provide a better life, Emmett moved his family to Fairbanks, Alaska, driving the Alcan Highway, arriving on April 29, 1970. They settled in North Pole. Upon their arrival, the job he had running heavy equipment in the North Slope oil fields ended abruptly with the Native Land Claims Act. He started a firewood cutting business and went to work for Northland Wood, where he remained until the Alaska pipeline began. During that time, he felled all the huge logs he would use to build the large log cabin where Roberta and his granddaughter, Katie, live today.
Emmett worked on the Alaska pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. He ran loaders and bulldozers and other heavy equipment, building ice roads, gravel roads and undertaking other dirt work. When working up North he would be gone sometimes six or more weeks at a time, coming home to his family in North Pole for his R&R.
After the pipeline, Emmett worked in many locations and for many companies, including Earthmovers, Brice and Price. He did construction work on Chena Hot Springs Road, the Haul Road (Dalton Highway), the Parks, Steese and Richardson highways, and elsewhere.
Emmett (Mac) retired out of the Operating Engineers, Local 302, his last location being the Red Dog Mine, north of Kotzebue. He had become an expert at operating heavy equipment.
Emmett was an avid hunter. In California it was deer, and often he would bag a trophy size stag; in Alaska it was moose. He taught his boys to hunt, and there was always moose in the freezer. Two beautiful bucks and a very large moose still hang on the walls of the log home he built.
The family also spent time camping out, dip net fishing for reds and kings in Chitina on the Copper River, and fishing for rainbow trout, grayling, kings and silvers in the Gulkana.
He really enjoyed the time he spent gold mining and owned a couple of claims. He would talk gold to you as long as you would listen. Although life in Alaska was very difficult at times, Emmett lived the full Alaska experience.
Emmett was a proud tribal member of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. His great-grandmother Sally Goodeye's life was joined to Jonathan Lewis, an Irishman originally from North Carolina, through a trade struck with Sally's father for two thoroughbred horses.
Today, all of Emmett's children and grandchildren are members of the Chukchansi tribe. He has many relatives in the tribe living in Coarsegold today. His daughter, Elaine, works for the tribe in the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, booking all the entertainment for the resort. This year, the casino is celebrating its 18th anniversary of operation.
A small graveside service for father and son will be held for family and close friends of the deceased at Northern Lights Memorial on June 19.
Emmett was strong most of his life, but his health declined in his later years. He died in the home he built with his own hands, sitting in the kitchen in front of the wood stove, with his dog Abby.
Emmett will be remembered as a very hard worker, striving all of his life, to provide for his family, whom he did love. Goodbye, Dad, we love you.
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Published by Daily News-Miner on Jun. 16, 2021.