Heart of gold

Shannon Duff
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Mac Tucker remembered for his kindness and dedication

Author Maurice Young once wrote, “To become a master at any skill, it takes the total effort of your heart, mind, and soul working together in tandem.”

Malcolm (Mac) Tucker worked as an instructor at the College of the North Atlantic for 38 years.

Truer words were never spoken, especially as it applies to Malcolm Tucker, or “Mac” as he was referred to by those who knew him best.

Mac was born in St. John’s in 1952 and raised in St. Philip’s with his older sister, Millicent.

As a child, he paid close attention to his father’s craft at carpentry and quickly mastered the art as well. As an adult, he earned a livelihood with those skills at the College of the North Atlantic on Prince Philip Drive in St. John’s, providing a loving and stable home for his two children, Krista and Wesley.

When the carpenter’s shop closed down in the late ’90s, Mac’s job as carpentry instructor was transferred to the Clarenville campus, where he worked every day until this past fall.

Even his children admit that those 38 years he worked for the college were his happiest, second only perhaps to summers spent hunting, fishing and camping across the island with them.

“Between the College of the North Atlantic, hunting, and myself and my brother, there wasn’t much time for much else for him,” says Krista of her dad’s three main passions in life.

“In the summers we had this camper and we’d just drive, and we’d do the gravel-pit camping. He had never been on a plane — he refused to leave Newfoundland until he had seen all of it. So, he’s never been to Port aux Basques and he never would go to Port aux Basques because then he would have to leave,” she laughs.

“We’ve been up to L’Anse aux Meadows, down to Hermitage, to Trinity Bay, Bonavista Bay — every corner, nook and cranny I have visited with my dad, and it was during the summer months when we were all off school and we’d all go.”

Krista remembers keenly her dad’s enthusiasm for the outdoors. Mac owned several rabbit dogs, ATVs, rifles and snowmobiles, and was an avid and dedicated hunter and an active member of the Rod and Gun Club for more than 40 years.

“Other than school, his other passion was hunting. Every Saturday and Sunday he was off hunting or fishing,” she said.

Maisie Caines is the campus administer at the Clarenville College of the North Atlantic. She knew Mac since he began at the college and, within the last few years, had grown very fond of him — mainly, she says, because of his kind heart and dedication to his students.

She echoes Krista’s words that he was a man who would help anybody, without hesitation.

“He was the kind of individual that if someone was in need, he was the very first that stepped forward.”

She saw an example of that came earlier this year when a student lost some money and cards during their graduation ceremony. She says the administration decided to organize a collection to help the student out.

“Right in front of me, within moments, was Mac. He had a $100 bill in his hand. I said, ‘Mac, that’s too generous,’ and he said, ‘I don’t care, that young maid needs it more than I do.’ And that’s what he did, and there was no convincing him that that was too much.”

As it turns out, the student found her cards and money but Mac still refused to take back the $100, instead insisting that another student in need benefit from it.

“He was a very kind-hearted person. I literally believe that Mac would give anyone the shirt off his back if he had to. That’s the kind of person he was,” Caines said.

His colleague, Wayne Pike, agrees.

“He was a grassroots kinda person. Although he was an instructor, he related more to the students at their level.”

Pike also teaches carpentry at the college and says all the students were very fond of Mac.

“He liked to get to know his students.”

Caines thinks Mac was able to connect with the students on a personal level through his storytelling.

“That was his first love. That was his passion — telling students stories about his hunting and fishing, just putting them at ease.”

It seemed to Krista the college had become his second family over the years.

“He’d come home from work and all he would talk about was his students.”

And it seems his students thought a lot of him as well. She recalls one winter when her dad worked at the Prince Philip Drive campus that his students took it upon themselves to make an ice sculpture in his honour.

“They built my dad kinda knelt down on one knee with a gun pointed in one direction and a huge 20-foot rabbit behind him. I remember as a little girl driving past and seeing this ice sculpture and saying, ‘Look, that’s my dad, that’s my dad!’”

Krista says her father had sayings and anecdotes for every situation.

“There’s so many, I joked with my brother that we should write a book because we could make a comedy show out of them. The stories — there’s just too many of them.”

Caines remembers fondly some of Mac’s more peculiar euphemisms.

“He would never say, ‘that person has cancer.’ He would say, ‘that person has the C stamped on them.’ We weren’t quite sure what he meant. He had a very interesting way with words and expressing something.”

Pike says it sometimes took him weeks to figure out what Mac was referring to when he used one of his quirky sayings.

“Over time you’d understand what he was trying to say. He really had his own style and his own animations and a lot of his teaching was from years of experience.”

Krista says his incredible woodworking skills were visible in every aspect of their lives.

“He was like the real life MacGyver. You could give him a popsicle stick and he would build a mall,” she says with a laugh.

“He built our house, he built everything in our house — everything from beds that we slept on to the closets that we hung our clothes, to the sheds to the doghouses. He built everything.”

With carpentry in his veins, Mac was known for his industrious nature.

“He took great pride in being able to create something with his hands and making it usable,” Krista said.

She and her brother Wes both inherited that Tucker family gene.

“My brother also works with his hands — he lays ceramic tiles for a living,” Krista said.

“He got Dad’s ability to work with his hands, and I got his ability to be resourceful.”

Only this fall did the people around Mac realize how sick he’d become. He got his moose hunting licence but wasn’t well enough to go into the woods. It caught people off guard because he had been so healthy most of his life and had gone to work every day, almost until the day he was hospitalized.

“He’s never really been ill his whole life,” Krista said. “He had a little bit of heart trouble a few years ago but nothing serious, so this was a complete and utter shock. He was at work on the 27th of September and he was in hospital on the 30th. He worked right up until the Friday before he went into the hospital.

“If you used the word dedicated, it would not even come close to explaining what Dad was to the college.”

Krista says she’ll remember her dad mostly for his heart of gold.

 Mac died of brain cancer earlier this week and was laid to rest in his hometown of St. Philip’s on Wednesday.

 He was 61.

telegram@thetelegram.com

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic on Prince Philip Drive in, Clarenville College of the North Atlantic, Rod and Gun Club

Geographic location: Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, Trinity Bay Bonavista Bay

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  • Bernie Cole Gardiner
    December 07, 2013 - 11:26

    Mac taught carpentry in 88/89 . He was a awesome man ... I loved to hear his stories , always a lesson to be learned. RIP Tucker