Bernard R. McDonald, age 95, went to be with the Lord on May 18, 2020, following a short battle with pneumonia/COVID-19. No doubt Ruth, his wife of 58 years, welcomed him home Monday along with other friends and family that preceded him. Here, he will be missed by his five children, fourteen grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and those they each call family. Bernie’s children invite friends and extended family to join them for a Celebration of Life memorial service at the Church of the Good Shepherd and Wesley Glen Retirement Community once it is safe to gather, dates to follow.
Born in Miami, Florida, Bernie served his nation during World War II, returned to Florida to earn his college degree, and enjoyed two illustrious careers. During the war, one of his duties was to prepare condolence letters for the families of fallen soldiers. He always said that experience taught him just how precious life really was. After joining the U.S. Internal Revenue Service right out of college, Bernie was performing an otherwise-typical tax audit which required him to review the contents of the tax payer’s safe deposit box. While doing so, he recognized a set of emerald jewelry from a recent IRS bulletin. Ultimately, the emeralds were confirmed to be a remote nation state’s stolen crown jewels; even today the Smithsonian Museum protects the jewels he recovered. Bernie was rewarded for his diligence with a promotion to the IRS Special Investigations team where he eventually rose to management. His team was responsible for bringing nefarious tax avoiders to justice. As an arms-certified federal agent, he was also called upon to support other agencies, including the Secret Service, as needed. While assigned to the Birmingham, Alabama office, he once protected Vice-President Richard Nixon, and even had a brief interaction with President John F. Kennedy.
After retiring from the IRS, Bernie enjoyed selling residential real estate briefly before embarking on a multi-decade career in personal lines insurance sales for J.C. Penney P&C Insurance which became Metropolitan P&C Insurance. He was frequently named the top homeowners insurance sales person in the nation, earning a number of award trips and, before retiring, was honored with the company’s highest award for sales professionals.
From a young age, Bernie and his parents traveled from Miami to Akron regularly, both to be with family and to avoid sweltering Florida summers. During his college years, Bernie’s cousin set him up on a blind date with her friend and Akron FBI co-worker, Ruth. Two years and many letters later, Bernie returned to Akron in 1950 to marry Ruth and take her back to Miami. There they made their home for nearly ten years, adding three children to their family. As he continued to progress in his career, Bernie was transferred to Atlanta where he and Ruth welcomed a second daughter. Their third son arrived shortly after their move to the Birmingham, Alabama office. In 1971, the McDonald family relocated one last time to Columbus, Ohio, where Bernie and Ruth celebrated their 58th anniversary before Alzheimer’s claimed her in 2008.
The McDonald family sought out and formed deep associations with Methodist churches each time they relocated, and Columbus was no exception. When they joined Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in 1971, the congregation was operating out of an elementary school near their home. Over the ensuing years, land was acquired, a sanctuary was built, and an education wing was added. Bernie could be heard every Sunday lending his beautiful tenor voice to the choir, and served in a variety of leadership roles, including as a lay leader providing occasional respite for the pastor. Perhaps Bernie’s most impactful role, though, was as a leader in the Epiphany Ministry, an ecumenical Christian ministry for troubled young men and women. Bernie participated in and led Epiphany weekends for both youth and adults, but most memorable were the weekends he spent with the men in Ohio’s prison system. He would speak with love about the men he remained in touch with as they reentered society and worked to turn their lives around.
In late 2006, Bernie and Ruth moved to Wesley Glen where Bernie remained until his passing. He hosted community tours for prospective residents, served as treasurer for the Guild, and was a lead volunteer in the community’s convenience store. He was a long-standing member of the Wesley Glen choir and could be seen at nearly every resident event – especially when dancing (or ice cream) was involved! In the months following the passing of his beloved wife, Bernie was surprised to find himself falling in love a second time with (another) Ruth, the widow of a long-time friend. At age 85, they were married on Halloween day in 2009, delighted in a huge reception at Wesley Glen, and honeymooned at Disney World. In the years that followed, they enjoyed many trips, family reunions, and two grand 90th birthday parties before Ruth’s health began to decline, leading to her passing in 2017.
While Bernie is remembered with love by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their families, no doubt his many friends and extended family will miss him deeply as well. They may break out in an unexpected smile recalling how he loved to entertain around the camp fire with, “My Aunt Fannie!” Cousins Donna and Gene Wise and their family, and dear friends Sarah and David Friedlander, Helen and Dan Miller, Marty and Larry (deceased) Hansgen, and Louise and Carl (deceased) McKee, held special places in his heart. He often reminisced about traveling with those he loved, especially their cruising adventures and two-week tour of the Holy Land. He spoke with deep emotion about his Good Shepherd family, and frequently shared how blessed he was to be part of the Wesley Glen community. Bernie’s children sincerely thank Peg Carmeny, Jill Easterling, and all the caring staff of Wesley Glen, for the love and extra-special care they provided to their father throughout the pandemic quarantine, but especially during his recent virus isolation.
Bernie is preceded in death by wives Ruth F. McDonald and Ruth W. McDonald, as well as parents Cora (Jenkins) and James McDonald. He is survived by sons David McDonald (Susanne McDonough), Mark Roy McDonald (Andrea K.), and Jeff McDonald (Kris), and daughters Carol Ruth (McDonald) Blaine (Craig) and Linda (McDonald) Horn (David). Also, grandsons David McDonald, Jr., Michael McDonald, Richard F. Brewer, Barrett Baughman (Kathy Lawton), Kyle J. Blaine, Jeffrey McDonald, granddaughters Lydia VanWalsen, Kayla A. McDonald, Stephanie R. Brewer, Katherine Haney (Ben), Kelly M. Blaine, Amber McDonald, Amanda McDonald, Anna McDonald, and great-grandchildren Alise Bryn Orodi, Catch Joseph Haney, and Noelle Ruth Lawton-Baughman.
The family asks that any remembrances of flowers or donations be held until the memorial services are announced as they are holding only a very small private service at this time, followed by cremation.