On this All Souls Day, November, 2, 2020, we share the sad news of Les McDonald’s passing. Below are several tributes to him. Les was a founding member of CCFM and in fact, was instrumental in pulling the east and west coast meetings of arch/diocesan facility managers together for a conference BEFORE CCFM became an official Catholic Association. Here’s what our “About Us” tab says:
In April of 1995, the Western Conference held in San Francisco was attended by approximately 50 personnel from dioceses across the country. At the conclusion of that meeting, there was an extended discussion among all the attendees of our future course. An East coast venue for the next meeting would assist in the establishment of a national organization.
Les NEVER missed a CCFM conference! He also DROVE to all of the conferences because he didn’t like flying. He was not only a founding member, but he was a Honorary CCFM Member, and he was very proud of that!
I’ve had many conversations with Les over the phone and in person at the conferences. He was a quiet, unassuming, easy-to-talk-to person with a positive, helpful attitude. CCFM will miss his presence! Please read the tributes that have been sent in to the National Office over the last few weeks.
LESLIE RICHARD McDONALD: 1939-2020
Written by Msgr. Schlitt, Archdiocese of San Francisco
Les McDonald, former Director of Property Management for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, passed away quietly on Saturday, October 17, 2020. He had worked for the Archdiocese for almost 30 years. He was very ill the past month and was given little hope of recovery. He was able to be with his family shortly before he died. However, because of Covid 19 restrictions at his care facility, he was unable to have visitors or express his love and concern for his many friends.
I was introduced to Les by his brother Joe after playing a handball game at the Olympic Club. Les knew I worked for the Archdiocese. I think both of them let me win a game so that I would make a favorable recommendation to Bishop Robert McElroy, who hired Les to put together a board and to assume the responsibility of all the properties of the Archdiocese. This was quite an expansive assignment because of the many churches, rectories, schools, and other properties of the Catholic community.
It didn’t take Les long to acquaint himself with every property in all three counties of the ADSF. One of his pleasures was driving. He didn’t care where he went, as long as he was behind the wheel and had a very cold Diet Coke at his side. He grew up in the City and knew every nook and cranny of the 49-mile area. It would take a
trivia expert to stump him on his neighborhood knowledge, and very old movies. He once challenged Archbishop George Niederauer, who grew up in southern California and was somewhat of an expert in the world of cinema. Les met his match.
When the late Cardinal William Levada first arrived in the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1995 as co-adjutor, he asked me if I had a suggestion for him to learn about the properties that were his responsibility. I suggested that he might put on comfortable clothes and walking shoes, then call Les to chauffer him around. It took a couple of days but they covered the three counties and the incoming Archbishop was able to see every property the Church owned in his new jurisdiction.
Les rarely took a day off from his duties. Once in a while he would ask, since I was his boss, if there was anything important that afternoon. When I said no, he replied, “I think I’ll take a drive to Tahoe to see the snow.” On one occasion he rented a brand new Cadillac and drove to New York City to see his son play in a handball tournament. The car rental people were quite surprised when this brand new machine was returned with almost 5,000 miles on the odometer. I can still hear him singing along with the radio. He loved all those old songs from the sixties and seventies. For him the “hits” kept on coming.
Les often would be seen walking the sidewalk outside the office with a Diet Coke, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and a cigarette. When it was time to eat, a bowl of soup, another Diet Coke and another peanut butter cup would suffice. He was never hungry as long as he knew those two mainstays were there for him. Of course, smoking was prohibited in most places in these latter years and it demanded sacrifice.
The building at One Peter Yorke Way was purchased with a check in an envelope when it was accepted as the highest bid from the hand of Les McDonald. It was one of his happiest moments. He took great pride in the renovation of that property, now the administrative offices of the Archbishop and the Archdiocese. Weekly meetings and daily oversight of the project were part of his job.
It was no secret that Les had a very difficult time in closing on the sale or purchase of property or many other little things that were on his professional plate. I can’t tell you how many people who worked for the Archdiocese were able to find a place to live, a used car, a place to go for family help and so many other little quests that they presented to me. It was a relief for me as Vicar General that I could say, “Let’s give Les a call, I’ll bet he’ll be able to help.”
The final return to the hospital came when Les complained that he was having trouble breathing. It is said
this is one of the most painful ways for a human to die. The precious air that was given to him allowed him to pass peacefully. Blessed Padre Pio once said, “Prayer is the oxygen for the soul.” In this time of Covid 19 when we hear how difficult it is for those who are dying because they cannot breathe, our friend Les has now taken his last and deepest breath. Let us pray for him! God has taken his spirit to heaven. Breath no longer needed. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed breathe in peace!
Submitted by Steve Bowers
Archdiocese of San Francisco
As many of you may have heard the sad news, our beloved friend Les passed away on October 17, 2020 after a long illness. Les was an esteemed colleague but also a dear friend held in high regard by so many who were blessed to have crossed his paths in his life journey. Over the years both in his professional and personal life, Les easily gained genuine respect and love just by being true to himself. He was a major support to and valued historian of the Archdiocese for over 30 years as Director of Real Estate responsible for all properties in the Catholic community later becoming Executive Director and semi-retired as Consultant to the Real Property Support Corporation up to the time of his death. Les knew the history of these properties along with all the backroads not widely known to the public. His impeccable talents and experiences allowed him to gain wonderful friendships through four San Francisco Archbishops, hundreds of Priests, Board & Committee members from various associations and thousands of Contractors he trusted to help support the needs of the Archdiocese.
Les gave of himself above and beyond for no other reason than to help when the need would arise. He would offer his services from the heart to anybody who would ask, without any expectations. Even in his final days, Les still would ask how others were—disregarding his own pain and suffering. Many different stories can be shared about this great icon but the most common sentiment is that Les was genuinely sincere, honest, trusting and caring . His integrity about work, people, family and friends were gifts to all who were touched in life by Les. We will remember our dear friend and hope to carry on his legacy and mission that he had worked so hard for.
Leslie McDonald’s Obituary:
Leslie Richard McDonald (Les to all who knew and loved him) passed away on October 17, 2020, weeks before his 81st birthday. A proud native San Franciscan through and through, Les was born on November 5th, 1939 to parents Geraldine and Joseph. He was raised in the Mission district, not far from the flat in which he resided for the last 20 years of his life.
The beloved father of Janice Ward, Leslie Drury, Michael McDonald, and Jessica Lamonica. A cherished grandfather to Michael McDonald, Melissa Miller, Lauren Cobb, Dominic Drury, and Ava & James Lamonica. Blessed with great-grandchildren Bruce McDonald, Abel and Madison Miller. Les is predeceased by siblings Gerald McDonald, Shirley Hudson, Mary Lou Wakefield, and Phyllis Darnell. He leaves behind his brother, Joseph McDonald and sister, Sandra Johnson.
Les loved his family deeply, and worked tirelessly to ensure that all were taken care of. From his days as a gas station attendant, to printing, McDonald Realty, the messenger business, his Roadrunner delivery business, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco …. Les always said, “It’s not ‘work’ if you love what you do.” He dedicated himself to helping any and everyone he could, and continued as an independent contractor for the Real Property Support Corporation at the Archdiocese all the way up until his passing.
His friendships gave him great joy. Among them are some he knew since childhood, those he met on the handball court, even acquaintances turned lifelong pals through real estate deals. Always hoping to brighten someone’s day, Les made friends everywhere he went. There is no doubt that he is watching over all of those he loved, smiling and singing.
Due to COVID, a private celebration of Les’s life was held in his memory.
Memorial donations can be made to the American Heart Association.