John McLean was born March 4, 1931, in Willapa, Wash. He died by his own hand on Oct. 26, 2015, at the age of 84. He left a note for his family which said he was tired of old age and poor health. We, his family, wish he hadn’t, but it was his decision and we understand.
His father, James McLean, was a narcissus bulb farmer, furniture store owner and entrepreneur. His mother was Addie Scott McLean, who adored her son. Together they built their wholesale bulb business near Elma, Wash., but they eventually divorced.
John graduated from Elma High School in 1949 and, at the urging of one of his teachers, enrolled in college at Washington State University, where he graduated in 1953 with an engineering degree. While in college he met and married Maxine Brindley. He was offered a job with Texaco in New York state, so they moved to a small town near West Point.
Thinking he would be drafted, he joined the army and spent a year in Germany. Maxine earned her teaching degree while he was gone. When he returned they began their family. James, Scott and Laura were born during that time in New York.
They eventually returned to the West Coast to be nearer to family and bought a house near the ocean in San Pedro, Calif. Maxine died in 1969.
John assumed the role of breadwinner and housefather with the help of various close friends and relatives. He found love again in Jane Murphy while working for Garrett in its air research and industrial division as an engineer specialist. She hailed from Rhode Island and had a family there who welcomed John. They had two daughters, Kathleen and Susan. When Susan was only 3 months old, Jane died suddenly.
Again, John picked up the pieces for his family but had to agree Susan should go to Rhode Island with Jane’s sister temporarily. Later, after much soul searching, he allowed the D’Orsis to adopt her and he became “Poppa John.”
Years later he made a visit to relatives in Cascade Locks and renewed an old friendship with Jean Scott Bradford. It became apparent “they would make a good couple” and soon they were married. John wished to live in Cascade Locks and quickly made they move. They built a new home and John planted a large garden. He was elected to the Cascade Locks City Council and served six years. His daughter Kathleen came to live with them and graduated from Cascade Locks High School in 1993.
Over the next 26 years they lived in their new house, which gradually became old, amid the unintended “family compound.” They shared dinners at least two or three times a week with the families of Jean’s two daughters, Sandy and Kari. Usually, there were extras, perhaps daughter Marilyn, from Vancouver. Holidays were often food extravaganzas with lots of impromptu song and dance. John’s California families often made the trip to Oregon to join in.
Gradually, John’s lifelong breathing problems worsened until it was no longer acceptable to him to live.
We loved him!
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