If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So, sing as well.
If I Should Go – By Joyce Grenfell
Such a time has come. At 84, Malcolm (Malcie) Joseph MacNeil— Husband, brother, father, grandfather, and family steward— is no more. Malcolm’s end came at the final stages of dementia, on December 24th, 8:15pm, in Camp Hill Veterans Hospital(Halifax, NS), surrounded by loving family. We are truly grateful for the excellent care he received during his brief time at Camp Hill. He is survived by his loving wife Ruth, his daughters Deborah and Michelle, his son Bruce(Patricia Daley), brothers Neil and Clem, his sisters Kathy and Rosie, and his grandchildren Alyssa, Brehan, Connor, Cailean, Liam, and Morgan, many nieces, many nephews, and two great-grandchildren. Malcolm is predeceased by his sisters Mary, Rita, Anne (Gerald White), and his son Shawn.
His life, and how he lived it, cast a vast shadow far more impactful than how he died. Sometimesclichés express what we cannot: We will not see his likes again. Malcolm was born April 8th, 1935 the son of the late Neil and Renee MacNeil. He tended horses, hunted alone, fished often, and worked hard labour. As the eldest son, Malcolm’s fortitude and resolve were made early: at the fledging age of 12, Malcolm heaved timber in the forests of Cape Breton in working conditions typically reserved for grown men. His unusual life continued as a Canadianoccupation soldier in the second world war. He rarely spoke of his experience as an underaged 16-year-old soldier and seeing the human ruins at Bergen-Belsen, or the misery of war in Europe. The intensity of his early life, and the few words he described them with, seemed sufficiently explained by his convictions, clear-eyed stare, and earnest smile. He did not live in the past, or with any wishful thinking.
Malcolm livedhis life in Cape Breton Island, moving from Sydney River to Big Pond. Afterreturning from Europe— being self-taught, and self-reliant— Malcolm worked as amechanic with an understanding of every realm of mechanical or electrical work.He continued his formal education to achieve a BA, BEd from St. FrancisXavier University; Malcolm taught for 32 years, and directed constructiontrades at the vocational school— what would become the Nova Scotia CommunityCollege— during which his involvement in minor hockey led to his election asPresident of the Cape Breton Minor Hockey Association. He balanced this, andeventually helping to raise four children, while still undertaking prodigiousprojects to build every aspect of several homes from Sydney to Big Pond. Forhis first family home, he mustered horses to clear the land, used the clearedlumber to frame the house, dug the foundation, and made insulation from an eelgrass-seaweed mixture. Ingenuity and patience were his trades. His handyworkwas generous, and he extended it to anyone in need. From the many neighbours needinga mechanical fix, to the weekly community breakfasts graced by his overlyeasy eggs, Malcolm gave much of himself. And yet, for a man so deeply connectedto his island home, he maintained a wide-view lens of the world.
There ismuch to write about Malcolm, but, how rare, it seems, for a soldier, mechanic,teacher to kayak the Bras D’Or Lakes; to cultivate a garden; to intimately knowthe local bird species, to read prolifically, and to intently care for others. Thereare few people who commanded such attention and radiated such decency. Malcolmembodied a mantra to do the right thing— the harder thing— even when no oneis looking. Death is inevitable, but these are the qualities that give hitraordinary character a semblance of immortality; and to be in his orbit, wasto know a remarkable man. So, it is with ineffable sadness, and immeasurablelove, that we say goodbye.
Visitationwill be Thursday January 2nd at Sydney Memorial Chapel 2-4pm and7-9pm, funeral will be Friday, January 3rd, St. Mary’s Parish, 1pmwith reception to follow at the Big Pond Firehall. As always, all are welcome.In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations to charity of your choice.
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Malcolm MacNeil 2019..
Death notice for the town of: Sydney, Province: Nova Scotia