Obituary of Donald Brown MacMillan Jr.
Donald B. MacMillan Jr., 76, of Danbury, died February 13, 2023, following a long illness with COPD. He was the husband of Christine (Gleissner) MacMillan. An elementary school teacher in Brookfield for 36 years, Don died peacefully with his family by his side at Regional Hospice in Danbury.
Don is also survived by his daughters, Amy Bankson, and husband, Michael; and Carrie MacMillan, and husband, Hugh Bailey, and their sons, Colin and Zachary; as well as brothers Thomas, and wife, Kim; John, and wife, Julia; and sisters Amy Nargiso, and husband, Steve; Suellen Gearinger, and husband, Mike; and Liza Haynie, and husband, Terry; 12 nieces and their families; and many cousins and friends.
Don also leaves behind his sister-in-law, Susan Lenihan, and three nephews and their families. He was predeceased by his first wife, Theresa “Terry” (Lenihan) MacMillan, in 2001, and their son, Kevin MacMillan, in 2020.
Don was born July 6, 1946, in Harrisburg, Pa., the first child of the late Donald B. MacMillan Sr. and Mary Elizabeth (Husic) MacMillan. The family settled in Candlewood Shores in Brookfield, Conn. Growing up, Don’s time was largely spent riding—fast—around Candlewood Lake in motorboats. If he wasn’t in a boat, he was waterskiing or swimming, and winter meant that he simply drove his cars on the ice.
He made lifelong friends in the Shores and from his summers spent pumping gas at a marina. He had many adventures with his good friends, including the late Steve Dumser and the late Tom Lenihan. As teenagers, Don and Steve were “banned for life” from Brookfield Town Park for having a contest to see who could drive their boats up the furthest on the beach. Steve also taught Don to drive after the two “borrowed” Steve’s grandmother’s car. Don was the quietest of the crew, which meant he often didn’t get into as much trouble.
Don graduated from Danbury High School in 1964 and married Tom’s sister, Terry, in 1968. He earned his bachelor’s degree (and later, master’s) from Western Connecticut State College. In 1969, Don was hired by Brookfield Public Schools, where he taught mostly fourth-grade science and math until he retired in 2005. Legions of his students remember tapping trees and making maple syrup and Don’s years-long mission to collect 1 million soda can tabs so that they could visualize the sum.
Don’s classroom didn’t have elaborate décor, but instead featured hubcaps on the walls and a motorcycle engine to teach kids basic mechanics. Outside school, grease was constantly under his fingernails, testament to the dozens of secondhand cars, boats, motorcycles and trucks he owned over the years.
Because Don could fix almost anything, he was proud of the fact that he didn’t buy a new car until he was in his 60s. He was passionate about the ones he restored, including a 1959 Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprite and a Mini Cooper. Always resourceful, he’d buy or find unsalvageable vehicles and discover a new purpose—like the old Volkswagen bus he towed into the woods behind his house that served as a source for spare parts and a fort for his children.
Don and Terry loved raising their children in Kent, where they built a home in 1972 and had many fun times with his parents, siblings and their families. He often said he had to teach himself to fix cars and do complex home repairs because he didn’t make much money as a teacher, but he also had a natural affinity for problem solving and hard work. And Don was never one to sit around if there was a project to do or someone to help. To supplement his income, he always worked side gigs, including many years at Kent Auto Supply, as well as helping out on construction jobs with his brother, John, and their father. He also served on the Kent Board of Finance from 1985 to 1991.
In 1991, the family returned to Candlewood Shores, where Don and Terry had a couple of empty-nest years before Terry’s death in 2001 from breast cancer. Don married Christine Erwin, a fellow Brookfield teacher, in 2004. In 2010, the couple moved to Danbury’s Hawthorne Cove, also on Candlewood Lake, where they made fast friends with many neighbors.
In retirement, Don became a Realtor for William Raveis and filled his spare time driving his boat, playing volleyball, tinkering with tools and spending time with family. For several years, he was a volunteer driver for cancer patients at Danbury Hospital, where he was also a member of a stroke survivors’ support group. He was an avid Formula One race fan, and he and Kevin enjoyed watching races at Lime Rock Park. He was equally grateful to have a son who shared his love of high speeds and two daughters who relied on him to change their brakes and offer sound advice. He always arrived at their homes with his toolbox in case something needed fixing.
Don was elated when he became a “Pop Pop” to Colin and Zachary, born in 2010 and 2012, respectively. He and Chris adored babysitting the boys each week, taking them for boat rides and playing in the waterfall behind their home.
He was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in 2008, but it didn’t significantly limit his day-to-day living until the last few years. The kind of person who was always first to plow a neighbor’s driveway or tow a stranger’s car out of a ditch, it was hard for Don to trade most physical activities for more sedentary ones. But even tethered to oxygen, he remained as active as possible, walking on his treadmill every day, and visiting with friends, family and groups.
Loyal, logical and honest, Don was a man of few words with a dry sense of humor. When he spoke, people listened. He loved his family most of all, and though he was heartbroken twice by the loss of a wife and a son, he was always optimistic and even-keeled. Don and Chris cherished their early retirement years together, taking several beautiful trips, including a cruise to Alaska with his siblings and their families, a drive through the Great Smoky Mountains and many family vacations to Goose Rocks Beach in Maine.
Simply put, he was a good, kind man and anyone who knew him as a family member, friend, teacher or colleague is lucky to have had the honor. His steady presence and spirit will remain in our hearts forever.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 1, 2023 at St. Paul’s Church in Brookfield.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Regional Hospice, 30 Milestone Road, Danbury, CT 06810 https://regionalhospicect.org/ or the Palliative Care Team at Danbury Hospital, 24 Hospital Ave., Danbury, CT 06810.
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