George Marshall MacLeod
June 20, 1921-January 21, 2018
Lost to our family and our community on January 21, 2018 was George Marshall MacLeod, age 96. He’s irreplaceable and was loved by many, many people.
He’d want you to know these things: He passionately loved his wife Greta for 69 years. He adored his four children and mentored them carefully to become the adults they are today. He’d tell you how fiercely proud he was of all of us.
Most important, he’d tell you about his mother, Olive, who, throughout his life, was his muse and inspiration. To his last, a day didn’t pass when he didn’t draw on her example. Her fierce determination lived on in him. He led a remarkable and dignified life, not only because he expected this of himself, but also to honor her memory.
It was his mother who made sure that George got into Stanford University. Raised during the Great Depression, this was a glorious achievement for George; he studied ferociously and earned a bachelors’ degree in Geology. He missed his formal graduation because he was serving as a captain in World War II.
Returning from the South Pacific, he resumed his graduate work in geophysics where he met a tall, lovely blonde undergrad named Greta, his wife-to-be. After a short career as a geophysicist at Standard Oil in New Orleans and Utah in the 1950s, they bought a cinderblock fixer-upper in rural Los Altos Hills that he turned into a small paradise for his growing family. He worked for Fisher Research and Knapic Electronics, until he eventually found a satisfying career with Monsanto.
George had a passionate eye for social justice, intuitively believing in what seemed fair and right. Early on, he was active in the local Democratic Party organization and was a school board president for three years. He pushed hard for the creation of Santa Clara County’s two distinguished junior colleges, De Anza and Foothill. He also championed a bond measure that enabled the building of Highway 280.
George always lived on the forward edge, but one gig stuck with him for decades. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he managed Monsanto’s optoelectronics group. Monsanto was a long-ago pioneer in the development of light-emitting diodes. Yeah, LEDs. George once said, “What we did with that little group, we actually changed the way the world was going to be lighted. The whole world is going to be lighted with light-emitting diodes.” Now, in 2018, his vision has come true.
In the 1970s, Silicon Valley lost its luster for him, and he embarked on the greatest adventure of his life. In 1974, he and Greta bought 50 hillside acres in the Sonoma Valley. Making the switch from silicon to sauvignon blanc wasn’t easy, but years of research, trial and error eventually yielded a vineyard rich in a unique terroir.
As he gained experience, George also grew in his determination to make the world a more just place. At age 65, he embarked on learning Spanish. George believed that all of those who helped him nurture his vineyard were as important as the soil and the grapes. He cared for his Latino employees by helping them through numerous legal and medical issues. He made numerous trips to Mexico to visit the families of some of his employees, and he personally funded the education of their children.
George stayed in touch with everyone – cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts. He loved people as much as he loved his ranch. His address book overflowed with contacts and he kept buying more page extensions just to keep up.
At the age of 75, he began to write. His first books were about his mother, and he moved on from there. Research, writing and self-publishing remained a pleasure to him until his dying days.
How do you describe George Marshall MacLeod? Truthfully, you can’t. But there is a plaque above one of his favorite resting chairs on his patio. It reads “The Old Patron.” Indeed, he was everyone’s old patron, and he’ll be missed forever.
George is survived by his wife, Greta, four children: Richard (Gail), Noel (Steve), Susan (Ed) and John (Marjorie), seven grandchildren: Scott, Jacob, Ben, Emma, Skyler, Evan and Helen, and five great-grandchildren: Collin, Kaitlyn, Marshall, Jackson and Noah.
Private family services will be held at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Kenwood. A Celebration of Life for the community will be planned at a later date.
Donations in George’s memory may be made to: La Luz Center, 17560 Greger St., Sonoma, CA 95476. La Luz Center is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization (Tax ID #68-0228235) dedicated to improving the quality of life in Sonoma Valley by insuring everyone has the opportunity to become productive members of our community.