Celebrating 75 years of love and marriage

by Peter Weinberger | pweinberger@claremont-couirer.com

Claremonters Lee and Claire McDonald recently reached an impressive milestone. On August 17, 1946, a young couple, only 21 and 19 years of age, were married and have never looked back. Lee (96) and Claire (94) have now spent a lifetime together after 75 years as man and wife. That lifetime includes living in Claremont and raising a family, all while contributing mightily to making Claremont a better place to live.

On Saturday, 12 members of the McDonald family—plus others watching from cellphones—celebrated Lee and Claire’s 75th wedding anniversary, outdoors at Larkin Park.

“It would probably be an exaggeration to say it was love at first sight, but it was pretty close to it,” Lee McDonald said of the first time he laid eyes on his wife Claire when interviewed for a 2016 story in the Claremont COURIER about their 70th anniversary.

The couple was first introduced at a party by one of Lee’s army buddies, who wanted to set him up. The woman Lee first met was very nice, but he kept noticing a tall, beautiful woman who was also part of the group. “Here’s someone I’d like to meet,” Lee said to Claire, 17, by way of introduction. Claire was 5’11” and was happy to meet a man who was taller than she.

They spent months walking the streets of Claremont while getting to know one another. When the time came to propose, Claire knew exactly what was happening and tried to be patient while Lee found the right words. So when Lee finally popped the question, Claire said, “I was just waiting for him to ask!”

Of course, they had to wait for the war to end since Lee was being groomed to co-pilot a B-24 bomber. But the war ended soon after, and by November 1945, Lee was a free man.

Over the years while raising their family (Mary, Julie, Devon, Alison, Tom and Paul) the couple met many wonderful people, most of whom are no longer with us. That also included Marty and Janis Weinberger, who were part of a group of hardcore Democrats including Leonard and Helen Jean Munter, Steve and Connie Zetterberg and Colin and Kay Moore. They would regularly gather with their families for picnics and softball games at Memorial Park.

The McDonalds both graduated from Pomona College, Claire at age 20. After his service in the Army Air Corps, Lee went on to become a professor of government (politics) at the college, in addition to a five-year stint as dean in the 1970s. Claire spent 12 years as a Claremont city councilperson, which included a term as vice mayor. She even continued her political career in an unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat.

The McDonalds currently live at the Mt. San Antonio Gardens retirement community. Lee is still sharp and alert, and was fully enjoying his family party at the park. Claire’s memory is not what it once was, but she was engaged, continually asking questions about what was happening during their family reunion.

Between the stories, singing, food and picture taking, Saturday was a fine day for the McDonalds. One the entire family will never forget.

 

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