Bob McQuarrie a man for all seasons
THOMASTON- He was just `Mac’. Then again, not really. Is anybody ever just three letters? The nickname offered up a couple of things – a hint to his Scottish heritage and a casual way to get his attention. But in a lifespan of 90 years, Bob McQuarrie was far more than just a three-letter shortening of his last name. Far more.
Mac passed away earlier this year and Thomaston lost a guy steeped in diversity. One of those guys that came at you from so many areas of life all of which made his town proud, made his town laugh, made his town strong and vibrant and simply made his town better.
Mac was musical and athletic, political and social. He didn’t just live in Thomaston, he ingrained himself in its fabric. He was one of those guys communities need to grow and thrive.
Thomaston found out about Mac in his formative years, on the athletic fields and courts. He was simply an outstanding athlete, and area of passion that would be a lifelong companion. He earned a total of 12 letters in high school and in 1947 was the only senior to letter in all three sports (soccer, baseball, basketball).
He was a major factor in the Bears’ 1947 basketball season which ended with a Class C-D semifinal loss to eventual state champion Old Saybrook.
Mac’s athletic prowess was further enhanced after high school starting with baseball. A solidly built righthander with some good pop on the ball, he earned notice around the area pitching for legendary Thomaston coach Harry Lynch’s outstanding American Legion team, the Lakeville Firemen of the Inter-State League and Overlooks of the Waterbury Twilight League.
Among those who noticed were the New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. In March of 1948 Mac signed with the Indians to play in the Class D league. It was testament to Mac’s talent but two months later he showed his character on grand scale.
In May of 1948, Mac’s father died at the age of 44. With two young sisters and his mother left alone, Mac came home. He got a job at the Hartford Electric Light Company where he built a career that lasted for 43 years.
Mac did what he had to do and the sacrifice was not lost on his family through the years.
“Dad grew up dirt poor with never a chance of attending college but was determined to make something of himself,” said his daughter Kim Hartz. “When his hard work as a pitcher finally gave him a chance to play the sport he loved and perhaps become a pro, his dream was cut short by the sudden death of his father. He made the ultimate sacrifice and left his dream to come back home. He never talked about his disappointment but based on his athleticism and determination I can imagine what might have been.
About this time Mac found golf and for the next 70 years or so it would be part of his life. He was scratch with Mickleson-like hands around the green. He joined Watertown Golf Club, taught lessons for the Thomaston Recreation Commission and most recently worked as a starter at Fairview Farms right up to two years ago. Mac could play and Mac could teach. Right up through most of his 80s he was still hitting score that might have frustrated him on occasion but had those of us who played a round or two with him shaking our heads in admiration.
The fields of his youth and the fairways of his life were always easy places to find Mac, but they were just some of the many places. He had a talent and passion for sports but saw and lived the bigger picture.
You could find Mac at a town meeting, he was a Selectman. You could find him in the town hall, he was on a multitude of commissions. You might have seen him in opera house helping rewire the old gem with his electrical background.
You could find him in the opera house or church strumming his banjo. Not only could Mac pitch and putt, he could pick. The banjo would come out for Christmas carols, patriotic music and decades of Stag Club Minstrel shows. You could find Mac in a lot of places over a lot of years, the town helped along by his involved hand.
I got to know Mac when I was a kid. His daughter Kim and I went to school together, his oldest daughter Pam graduated with my brother and youngest daughter Nancy became a good friend through the years.
We saw each other at events and in later years often at the golf course. We even got technical fouls together. We were watching Nancy play basketball for the high school in the late 1970s and got rather loud discussing the merits of the officiating. We were T’d – up which didn’t exactly endear us to his daughter or the team. No offense, Mac, but it was more you. Just sayin’.
Up until late last year I would often see Mac at Dunkin’ Doughnuts for his afternoon get-together with his great friend Dick DiMaria, who recently passed also, and Stanley Hurlbert. After his "Hey Ricker", we would talk a little sports, say hi and just reconnect.
I write a lot about great athletes and their exploits. Mac was that but had so much more in the tank. The sporting life, the civic life, the social life, the family life. Mac’s life was a great exploit and the town benefitted. You need people like Mac.
Thanks Mac. Hit’em straight and tune that banjo.