Obituary: William W. (Bill / Mac) McMakin
William W. (Bill /
June 21, 1923 – May 21, 2021
Eagle, Colorado resident Bill (Mac) McMakin passed away peacefully in his sleep on May 21, 2021 in Eagle. He was 1 month away from his 98th birthday and died just 4 months after Martha, his wife of 73 years. The loss of this extraordinary couple is deeply felt.
William Wallace McMakin was raised 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. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. He was commissioned from November 3, 1943 to October 29, 1945 in the 8th Air Force, 491st Bomber Group, 852 Squadron. He flew as a captain on B24 in the European theater. He won the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, a Purple Heart and the EAME Campaign Medal with 5 Bronze Service Stars. Mac didn’t talk about his war experience until later in life, though he still credited the Air Force with opening the skies to him.
After the war Mac, along with other Americans, Canadians and Britons, moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to fly for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Many of these early KLM pilots and their families have become lifelong friends. Through one of them, Mac met Martha Diament. Martha played a prank on Mac by pretending to be Dutch, starting a heated relationship that lasted the rest 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 this time, the first two of their three children were born.
Mac bought a surplus army jeep and he and Martha, still in their mid-twenties, explored post-war Europe. He also bought a 6 meter sailboat in Rotterdam which had competed in the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and learned to sail without knowing how to swim.
After his stint with KLM, Mac and his family returned to the United States where their third child was born. He started flying for Seaboard World Airlines, doing commercial cargo and passenger flights around the world for 27 years. Over the course of a piloting career that spanned continents and decades, Mac has gained a wide reputation and has often been asked for advice. Just a few years ago, a family friend was at a bar in Shanghai, China, and heard someone refer to Seaboard World. He asked them if they knew Mac McMakin. The answer was, “Damn it, yes! He is the best pilot I have ever met.
After Mac retired from powered flight, he bought a Grobe sailboat and got involved with Freedom’s Wings International. He helped introduce people with disabilities to the joy of flying. He deeply loved his years of flying and found his work with Freedom’s Wings very rewarding.
After leaving Amsterdam, Mac and Martha then 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’s death, Mac returned to Eagle.
Above all, Mac was a man of character. He lived his words of honesty and integrity. He believed in an open mind, learning from his mistakes and helping others whenever possible. He believed in the infinite power of the mind and in the value and
strength of the individual. He listened. His enthusiasm for all things was contagious. He was an optimist. For him, all experiences contained the possibility of an opportunity for something new, and he impressed him on his children, grandchildren and many friends.
With his hands and ingenuity, he built a cozy room from an open porch and a guesthouse from a tool shed. He would camp with his family, ski, build go-karts for his kids, and fix everything from clocks to dishwashers. Mac has never been static, never thoughtless and always ready to try something new. He and Martha were surrounded by friends, family and laughter all the time. He was grateful that he had had the opportunity to offer help when needed.
Over the past few years, dementia crept into her mind, confusing time and place, and after 97 years of enjoying every moment of her life, her body gave way. Mac’s last days have been filled with gratitude and sharing memories. He was calm and spoke very fondly of his love for his family and his life.
His family and loved ones find themselves with the cherished space he inhabited within them. We have lost part of ourselves but we are forever grateful and stronger because of him.
Mac and Martha will be together again at Radnor Meeting in Pennsylvania where they were married in 1947.
Mac is survived by daughter Beth McMakin and grandchildren Trent and Blair Ruder; his son Doug McMakin and his granddaughters Lindsay, Laura and Carly, his great-granddaughter Madison; and his 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 can be made to: George Washington’s Mount Vernon or Habitat for Humanity.