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William MacLean

William MacLean

Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.

William Arnold MacLean, a longtime Cloverdale resident whose experiences in the Vietnam War taught him the importance of peace, died April 21. MacLean, whose health was recently failing, was 63.

MacLean was born in San Francisco and grew up in the San Mateo/Burlingame area. He briefly lived in Pacifica with his mother, father and older brother, Bob.

MacLean's ex-wife and still close friend, Martha MacLean of Cloverdale, said he “had a great childhood” until his father's untimely death. The family was driving up to Nice to vacation at Clear Lake when they got into an accident.

MacLean and his brother Bob were in the backseat of the car. His mother was injured and his father died. After the accident, MacLean and his mother and brother went to live with an uncle.

Camping and fishing with his family was one of his favorite things to do, Martha MacLean said.

In 1969, after graduating from high school, MacLean joined the military and was sent to Vietnam. He served as a sentry patrol K-9 handler with a dog named Rex.

“His job with his dog was to walk the perimeter of the base where the helicopters were at night,” his former wife said. “He and his dog were schooled together and the dog knew over 500 hand commands, because they had to communicate silently.”

MacLean served in Vietnam for a year then came back to San Francisco and served at the Presidio as a military police officer for another year.

In 1971, recalling his love of the North Bay, he moved to Sonoma County to attend classes at Santa Rosa Junior College. He also took frequent backpacking trips to Yosemite National Park.

“He spent a lot of time backpacking in the outer country of Yosemite to bring his head back down to sanity, away from the war,” Martha said.

After he left the military and came back to the United States, MacLean became troubled by how Vietnam veterans were being treated. He became an active member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a national veterans organization founded in New York City in 1967.

“His most fervent wish in life was for peace,” Martha said. “That was his nature.”

MacLean landed a job on the graveyard shift at Boise Cascade in Healdsburg. He worked on the “green chain” sorting the mill's outgoing lumber. He gradually worked his way up, becoming a supervisor at the company.

MacLean and his future wife became acquainted in the early 1970s and later, while they were seeing other people. A couple of years later, their paths crossed again and they began dating.

They moved to Cloverdale in 1976 and were married in late 1977, for 26 years. Even after their marriage ended, the two remained close friends, Martha MacLean said. She was with him when he died.

William MacLean worked at the lumberyard for 20 years and then retired. In his spare time, he volunteered at the Cloverdale Library and the Cloverdale Senior Center. As in his youth, he enjoyed fishing and camping. He was a lifelong San Francisco Giants and 49ers fan.

Aside from Martha MacLean, he is survived by six nieces, a nephew, a great-nephew and a great-niece.

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