Remembering Jim & Joanne MacDonald 

Did your child recently win the Jim & Joanne MacDonald Student of the Month Award?  Read on to learn more about the namesakes of this award.  We hope you will enjoy your award as much as we enjoyed presenting it to you.

James Allan “Jim” MacDonald Jr., a hard-working entrepreneur and a 40-year member of the Grantville-Allied Gardens Kiwanis Club, passed away on Friday, July 15th, 2016.  The news of Jim’s death was reported by his fellow Kiwanian and his best friend, John Chandler.

“We lost a great man today, as my beloved friend and compadre and troublemaker and overall wonderful person left this Earth for other, new adventures,” Chandler wrote in an e-mail to friends.

Born on February 27th, 1932 in Alhambra, California, Jim MacDonald joined G.A.G. Kiwanis in April of 1975 and, for the next four decades, he would become the architect behind some of our club’s most ambitious projects and fundraisers.  

Despite facing some of life’s most gut-wrenching personal tragedies, Jim’s dedication to Kiwanis, and to the community as a whole, helped create a positive impact everywhere he went.

In his professional life, Jim was an engineer, architect, builder, and restaurateur, specifically known for his Round Table Pizza franchises.  At the peak of the chain’s popularity, Jim and his wife Joanne maintained more than a dozen local Round Table locations, including one on Mission Gorge Road in Grantville, and another at 7119 Navajo Road in San Carlos.  In its heyday, that San Carlos location was a gathering point for numerous community organizations, including Little League teams, and practically every sports team or youth group at Patrick Henry High School.

He was particularly skilled as a businessman, remembers Chandler.  “He employed people, he made them money, he built and created things, he was a master of numerous professions, and was the most savvy street-smart person I have ever known.”

Jim was also a loving husband and father who instilled good business sense and the values of community service into his sons, Scott and Craig.  Craig, his younger son, served as Key Club President at Patrick Henry in 1979-80, and served later that summer as Convention Chair when the 37th Annual Key Club International Convention came to San Diego.  Jim’s older son, Scott, was an avid sports fan, and the coach for a girls’ softball team near his home in La Mesa.

Sadly, the MacDonald family faced a seemingly unbearable loss when Scott was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  Scott was tragically young, only 24 years old, when he succumbed to the illness on July 5th, 1983.

Jim and Joanne, obviously devastated as any parents would be, would go on to create the Scott MacDonald Memorial Fund in loving memory of their son.  It would be a nonprofit organization, founded to help build and maintain youth sports facilities across East County.

Naturally, G.A.G. Kiwanis was on board with their effort.  Soon after Scott’s death, the annual Anchovy Open golf tournament (whimsically named for the anchovies found in Jim’s pizza parlors) was launched as a fundraiser for the Memorial Fund.  With Kiwanis as a partner and title sponsor for the event, the Anchovy Open was a staple for two decades at the Sun Valley Golf Course in La Mesa, a course managed by fellow G.A.G. Kiwanis member Mickey Walker.

In 1999, Craig MacDonald, Jim’s younger son and experienced in the restaurant industry, established the international award-winning Hooley’s Irish Pub in Rancho San Diego.  The popular music-and-brew event, “Hooleyfest,” followed on St. Patrick’s Day, again with G.A.G. Kiwanis providing numerous volunteers, and acting as a title sponsor.  Proceeds from HooleyFest also went to the Scott MacDonald Memorial Fund.
With Jim’s encouragement, eight years of HooleyFest fundraisers, and the opening of a second Hooley’s location in Grossmont Center, the Scott MacDonald Memorial Fund was able to raise over $100,000, enough to build a ballpark in his honor.  Craig’s original Hooley’s location in Rancho San Diego stands immediately next door to the McGrath Family YMCA and the J. Scott MacDonald Memorial Ballfield which still bears his late brother’s name.

Another two decades after Scott’s passing, Jim would courageously stare down the other major tragedy of his life as his beloved wife, Joanne, was diagnosed with scleroderma.  Jim and Joanne would dedicate much time and energy during the last years of her life to support the Scleroderma Foundation of Southern California, and its various fundraising events, in the hope that someday a cure for the deadly disease will be found.  After more than 56 years of marriage, Joanne preceded Jim in passing on January 26th, 2015.

“She was incredibly kind, sweet, and understanding,” remembered Kiwanis member and longtime friend John Chandler. “She was such an amazing listener, so full of compassion for whatever it was that was on your mind.”

By then, Jim was battling health issues of his own, as dementia would eventually rob him of all he had left.

“He suffered a host of life’s obstacles that many of us would have been crushed under, but not Jim,” Chandler recalled.  “He always bounced back somehow.  The word ‘resilient’ was built around him.  But, through this horrible condition known as dementia, we witnessed this invasive, life-destroying condition that just makes me (and Craig) angry.  It is completely senseless to me.”

Affectionately known to his fellow Kiwanians as “Big Dummy,” there’s no question that Jim MacDonald was one of the hardest workers that this club has ever seen.  No task was too daunting.  In 1985, when our club seemed ready to outgrow its meeting space, Jim helped oversee the massive task of expanding the Gardens Room at the Allied Gardens Recreation Center.

Later in life, Jim took a personal interest in New Entra Casa, an inner-city shelter for female ex-convicts who are out of prison and trying to reintegrate into society as law-abiding citizens.  The shelter had fallen into disrepair.  With Chandler again by his side, the two spearheaded several restoration efforts to help breathe new life into the shelter.  Jim and John, with additional Kiwanis support, helped renovate and restore the New Entra Casa house in North Park so that those women could continue to live in a safe and respectable environment.

As a member of G.A.G. Kiwanis, Jim was exemplary.  He was a two-time recipient of the Kiwanian of the Year Award – once in 1976-77, then again in 1984-85.  He was extremely motivated to improve his community, with an unmatched work ethic, and when trying to rouse support for his latest cause, he was never timid about speaking up during a Kiwanis meeting.  He served as President of the G.A.G. Kiwanis Club in 1981-82.

“I learned so very much from him, starting at a young business age, which allowed me to become more confident in myself.  For that, I will forever remain indebted to Jim.”

Considering what our club was able to accomplish thanks to Jim’s guidance and determination, his contributions cannot be understated.  Through our commitment to present the Jim and Joanne MacDonald Student of the Month Award to students at Hearst, Lewis, and Patrick Henry, along with the generosity of Craig MacDonald and Hooley's Public House, the Grantville-Allied Gardens Kiwanis Club will help ensure that Jim MacDonald’s legacy of service to Kiwanis and the surrounding community will not be forgotten.

1978: Still relatively new to Kiwanis himself, Jim MacDonald presents a name badge to new member Dan Coombe.

Jim MacDonald with his son, Craig, owner of Hooley’s Irish Pub, during a holiday event in November 2011.