Bob MacDonald is 94 years old. And if you ask him if he would do anything differently in his life, his answer is quick and unequivocal, “Not a thing!” Bob is our oldest volunteer in more ways than one. He was also one of the first volunteers when Feeding Hands began and for years was a fixture in front of our freezers helping guests select their meat until Covid sent us to the curb. He can still be found at Feeding Hands most Tuesdays!
“The Lord has blessed me. There are so many who are in need. I need to help.” Bob MacDonald
Bob was born when Herbert Hoover was president. Plainfield, where he was born in 1927, had trolley cars and horse and buggies. His first car was a Model A Ford Convertible he bought for $15. It was destined for the junkyard, but Bob had a mechanical sense and he got it going. His first job was for a tailor where he was paid $1.50 a week! The tailor made men’s suits. Bob carried them 2 miles across town to a woman who made the buttonholes. When it rained, the boss refused to give Bob a nickel to ride the trolley. Instead, he gave him an umbrella and said, “I don’t care if you get wet but don’t get the suits wet!”
Bob is full of stories, and he loves to tell them. He enlisted in the Army right after high school and was assigned to the military police unit where he stayed for three years. He was privileged to be assigned as a personal honor guard for General Douglas MacArthur. He was also part of the personal protection team for visiting dignitaries. While he was in the army, he met Betty, the woman he would be with for more than 60 years, at the Plainfield roller rink. They were married two years later. Together, they settled in Middlesex and raised three girls: Bonnie, Darlene, and June.
Bob worked for the NJ State Police for many years as a supervising mechanic, overseeing vehicle maintenance. When Betty got sick with Parkinson’s, Bob’s devotion to her was beyond measure. He took care of her every personal need at home. He slept next to her hospital bed and carried her from room to room, telling her how much he loved her and how having her in his life and caring for her was a true blessing. He says, “I never regretted a single day with her.”
After her death, many would expect that Bob would retire and go fishing at Panther Lake where he and his family always spent their summer months. But therein lies the difference between Bob MacDonald and most people. Though he has hobbies like horseshoes, billiards, and woodworking, Bob has so many volunteer “jobs” that his children can rarely find him home.
Bob started with Lois at Zarephath Church’s food pantry in the weeks following the loss of his wife. He moved with her when Feeding Hands was established eight years ago. For years, Bob has been Lois’s “go-to-guy”. With his wealth of contacts, she would say, “Bob do you know anyone who…” and invariably Bob did. He has driven the truck to pick up food, delivered food to shut ins, was chief “Mr. Fix-it”, and so much more. When asked why he continues to work so hard, he says, “The Lord has blessed me. There are so many who are in need. I need to help.”
Among his many other “jobs”, Bob has worked at the Zarephath Health Center for 8 years greeting patients, getting their files ready for the doctors, and keeping the place clean and sanitized. He was a lifeguard at 90 and rescued a child who was drowning. He also has been recognized for his many volunteer activities for Middlesex Borough and the American Legion.
A man of faith, Bob says he still has work to do. “The good Lord can’t take me yet. My casket is on back order, and they don’t know when it will be in!” He has a quick wit and a warm heart that everyone sees right away. One of Bob’s favorite sayings, which he considers his philosophy of life, is: “I don’t have any enemies, just friends I haven’t met yet.”
We all echo the words of his daughter Bonnie, “We want him around for many years to come.” This kind and gentle grandfather of 7 and great-grandfather of 7 is a treasure that our Feeding Hands staff, volunteers, and guests love and appreciate.