When a teacher dies, I can't stop myself from thinking about the sheer amount of knowledge that dies with him. All the years of helping students, the hours spent encouraging and tutoring and counseling - the loss is just overwhelming. My friend Debbie Stackrow said she read that every time a teacher dies, it's like a library burns to the ground.
One of my good friends - a former colleague - died this week. I am giving his eulogy this morning. It is a piece that I struggled to write - capturing a person in a short written bit of prose can never do justice to the honoree. Lyle MacDonald was a genius shop teacher who became a computer teacher during the computer revolution in the 90's. He educated our entire school, staff, and many others in the district on computers - a subject we never knew we would have to learn. Here is my homage to "Mr. Mac."
EULOGY FOR LYLE MacDONALD
Lyle MacDonald was one of my first friends at North Allegheny Intermediate HS on the first in-service day of school in August of 1976, and we remained friends for the rest of our lives. I can remember perfectly what I was wearing that day– pink skirt with matching striped T-shirt top, standing there, looking around and not knowing anyone or anything about the building – and Lyle said “Well, who’s this new gal? She looks like she might be a new English teacher to me. What do you all think?”, and our friendship was born. He steered me to the faculty meeting and the ladies’ room, and I am lucky that he helped to steer me through many ups and downs in my career at North Allegheny, as well as in my life. Lyle was a friend a person could really count on. LOYAL is a word that I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald.
Lyle was a man of so many talents and he became a man of great faith. He owned and operated his own backhoe business in addition to spending 50+ hours at school per week. He could fix absolutely anything – or if he did not have the item in front of him to fix, he could TELL you how to fix it - sequentially, and slowly, so that you could understand it! Lyle was also a genius with computers. He built several of his own, and stayed long hours after school helping students to build theirs. Building computers was NOT a part of the curriculum, but Lyle was such an inspiring teacher, and he loved sharing his knowledge so much, that he sacrificed hours with his own time to help these kids. DEDICATED is a word that I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald.
When Lyle was chosen to teach computers, not only did he have to teach the students, he had to teach the entire faculty -as well as paraprofessionals and secretaries - everything they needed to know about computers but didn’t know they should ask. Most of us never envisioned a school where we would be using anything other than chalk and overhead projectors, with handwritten grade books and interim reports. So, Mr. Mac was assigned the daunting task of teaching us all about MACS! Yes, we had Apple computers at the start of the computer era at NA. Just thinking about those classes almost makes me break out in hives. I was so afraid of computers – and so were many others! Lyle taught us the basics – which in many cases, began with the on and off switch – some of us never could find that – and I can remember someone in my group asking about how you use Whiteout! There were so many laughs during these classes – and it was a good thing that Lyle had such a great sense of humor, for all he had to put up with from us as students! Many colleagues will remember when one teacher put two discs into the disc drive and didn’t understand why the computer wasn’t working, but Lyle persevered through hundreds of hours of classes and staying after school to help the stragglers. PATIENT is a word that I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald.
Because Lyle had such extraordinary computer skills and because he was so willing to help others, he was bombarded daily by teachers who needed “a little extra help” with understanding and using a computer program. Maybe their disk crashed, and they didn’t know what to do. Maybe they were creating something new for their classroom, or maybe they were making the program for the high school spring musical or the yearbook for the boys’ golf team. No matter how much time it took, and even if he had to work with the teachers during his lunch or after school, Lyle helped each person who walked into his classroom to solve their problem or finish their programs. Administration was always asking Lyle to do extra work – like making the awards for student awards night. He did it all. GENEROUS is a word that I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald.
A former student of Lyle’s, who later became a friend, posted Lyle’s picture on Facebook to share his grief and let other North Allegheny students know of Lyle’s passing. So many former students remarked about Lyle’s sense of humor, or that he was a genius with computers, or how much they liked and admired him as a teacher. I had an online conversation with one young man , which I will quote: “I had breakfast with Lyle about a year and a half ago, and he said I was one of his best students, once he got my attention. 5 minutes later, he said, it only took him 35 years to GET my attention! I had to laugh out loud.” When Lyle was teaching shop at the beginning of his career, he had to deal with some very challenging students, to say the least. Lyle found that for his students, using humor and kindness were preferable to giving detentions and being a strict disciplinarian, and he knew that good relationships were essential to teaching. INSIGHTFUL is word I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald.
When he wasn’t in school, Lyle loved working with his backhoe. He always said he was “playing in the dirt”, so although it was hard work, he enjoyed it so much that it was fun. Lyle also loved bowling more than anyone I ever knew! He bowled all around the state of Pennsylvania and was often planning trips for tournaments in many other states. Lyle made so many friends through the years through bowling, and he even met his wife Patti at a bowling lanes on Route 8 about 20 years ago. Lyle enjoyed laughing, and he was a jokester at school, who loved to tease his friends and students in a good-natured way. I always laughed at the way he made up funny nicknames for so many students and teachers. Some of his former students posted on Facebook that they enjoyed his quirky sense of humor. FUN LOVING is a word I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald.
As a father, Lyle was so proud of his children and grandchildren. I realized when talking to Jennifer that she was born the year I started my career at NAI, and I can remember Lyle taking out his wallet to show me her baby picture. For years, I have been hearing about all that Jennifer and Brian (Lyle’s clone) their triumphs and tragedies, and I know that he loved you so much. Having grandchildren and step-children and grandchildren also meant the world to him, and he wanted to make sure that you were all loved equally. When my children’s book, GRADY GETS GLASSES, came out, along with the coloring book and stickers and plush toy, Lyle and Patti headed over to my place to but the whole set for all the kids. In fact, one of the last things Lyle said to me was that he needed 2 more sets for the little ones who came along since his last purchase, so even when he was so ill, he was still thinking of his grandchildren. Lyle and Patti had such a wonderful relationship, and although their time together was not as long as either one hoped for, they shared a great love for each other and their families. LOVING is a word that I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald .
To summarize, Lyle was a gifted and talented man who had a profound influence on so many others. The love he had for his family will endure forever. The skills he taught to both teachers and students are skills that we continue to use and improve upon, as lifelong learners. Lyle’s positive qualities - loyal, dedicated, patient, humorous, insightful, fun loving, and loving - will be carried forever in our hearts and minds. Lyle will be greatly missed by so many.
In closing, FRIEND is a final word I would use to describe Lyle MacDonald.
Rest in Peace, Lyle, and know that you made such I difference for so many during your lifetime.
By Dede Rittman
Link to Lyle's obituary https://www.kingfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Lyle-Lee-MacDonald?obId=11244482#/obituaryInfo