On May 24, 2011 the Bruce Peninsula lost one of its’ finest medical practitioners. Dr. Ken MacNay succumbed to a long term illness surrounded by his family in his 74th year. Dr. Mac as he was known by many had moved to Wiarton in 1966 and he is truly a part of Bruce Peninsula history.
The last time I spoke to Dr. MacNay was in the winter of 2010. I asked him if I could write a story about he and Arlene’s life on the Bruce Peninsula. Being the private people they are he was hesitant to do so and I honored that. However I feel that some sort of tribute is appropriate at this time. I am going to honor Dr. Mac’s wishes. This is a simple tribute from those who knew him best and I will respect his privacy.
According to his Sun Times obituary, Dr. Mac graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1963. After an internship in Vancouver he spent 2 years in Inuvik, NWT and then moved to Wiarton with his wife Arlene.
Dr. Mac had a thriving practice in Wiarton from the time he arrived until 2010 when illness forced him to retire. During that time he saw many changes in the practice of medicine. As Dr. J VanDorp said in the eulogy at Dr. Mac’s memorial service “the demographic inexorably shifted…shore lots that could not be given away 75 years ago escalated in value. They became thickly seeded with cottages, and many of those were peopled with retirees….As Mac used to say, ‘the ground is moving under our feet.’” But Dr. Mac always adapted to change with grace and humour whether it was demographics, new facilities or the introduction of computers.
Sandy Thompson is the Registered Nurse who worked for Dr. MacNay starting in 1969. She began her employ with him in what is commonly referred to as the “old hospital” in Wiarton. Thompson describes Dr. Mac as “always a gentleman who was never out of sorts.” She says he was “never cross with anyone.” In her opinion there are not enough superlatives to describe him. She recalls fondly that on snowy nights he would clear off her car for her, even after he got sick. Thompson says it was a privilege to have worked for Dr. MacNay.
When asked what Dr. Mac’s favourite area of medicine was, Thompson replied “obstetrics”. She said that there was nothing he loved more than bringing a new life into the world. She is not sure how many deliveries he performed but she knows that he was delivering second generations of babies.
Sheila Bray started working for Dr. MacNay for 2 weeks in grade 12. He then hired her when school ended. She took a 1 year accounting course at Georgian College and worked at the office also. Dr. MacNay’s philosophy was that you had to “get in there and do the work to learn it.”
Bray recalls “so many good times at work with Dr. MacNay.” She says that he was like family. He allowed her to bring her children into the office if needed. Bray also recalls the patience and time that Dr. MacNay took with his patients. He did not rush things and as such patients did not mind waiting to see him if the appointment was late. And she says he loved a good snowstorm. She says she’d describe him as a “gentle gentleman.” Both Thompson and Bray will miss Dr. MacNay very much.
I first met Dr. MacNay in 1985 when I began working at the Wiarton Hospital as a Registered Nurse. I was impressed with his calm and gentle approach to medicine. I was also surprised at his middle of the night visits to see patients that he was concerned about.
One night at around 2:00 am I answered the phone. It was Dr. MacNay. He said, “Oh hi Sharen. What do you think of this?” The next thing I heard was the loud sound of bagpipes in my ears. Now I’m not a bagpipe aficioanodo, so I would not know if it was good or bad. I said, ”Oh that sounds good.” and he said “Thanks. I thought so.” It wasn’t long before Dr. MacNay became one of the McLaren’s Pipes and Drums.
The MacNay family is an artistic one. Mrs. MacNay is a painter and her work was often on display in the office. She also plays piano and both she and Dr. MacNay sang in the Community Choir. They and their children have many musical pursuits.
Dr. MacNay was also a conservationist and a pilot. The list of his talents and his passions just goes on. But his strongest passion was for his family. He dearly loved his children Ramsay ( Karen), Sterling (Agnes), and Regan. He had grandchildren he adored…Emeline, Cedric, Chloe, Sophie and Molly. And Arlene was the love of his life. I’d like to say at this time that we thank you for allowing us to have time with Dr. MacNay. I’m sure that there were many times he left family dinners, parties and holidays to be with patients. That is time he wasn’t with you. You were very gracious in sharing your father , grandfather, and husband with us. He was a very special person and we will all miss him. But the world is a much better place because he was here, took care of us, entertained us and made us smile.
Sharin’ With Sharen
by Sharen Skelly
Owen Sound Sun Times
July 22, 2011